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Full text of "Catherine de' Medici and the French reformation"

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CATHERINE DE' MEDICI AND 
THE FRENCH REFORMATION 



The Household of the Lafayettes, 
By Edith Sichel. 

New Edition. With a Frontispiece. 
Ex. cr. 8vo. Price 3s. 6d. net. 



"... Miss Sichel has treated a bewildering mass of material 
with rare judgment . . . bringing before the reader a delightful 
company ot real men and women."— Pa// Mall Gazeiie. 



/ 



v^/ 



i 



'* 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

AND THE FRENCH 

REFORMATION 



By 
EDITH SICHEL 



Author of 
The Household of the La/ayettes," and " Women and Men of the French Renaissance 



It was not in the nature of a Medici to take his stand 
upon principles." — Mandell Creichton. 



WITH TWELVE ILLUSTRATIONS 









fx ^^ i 


• 






-fffl'l 


LONDON 








ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE ^ 


CO 


Ltd 




1 6 JAMES STREET, HAYMARKET, 


s.w 






1905 









BUTLER & TANNER, 

The Selwood printing works, 
Fromb, and London. 



PREFACE 



THE greater functions of history, the discovery of new 
documents, the revelation of new facts, demand great 
scholars. To the achievement of such ends a study like the 
present one — a study of persons, not an ordered narration of 
events — makes no kind of pretension. But history has its bye- 
paths and its lesser purposes, and one of the chief tasks of 
the minor historian is to read the books that no one has leisure 
for. It is customary to question the use of writing fresh 
works when so many have already been written. But we too 
frequently forget how many of these books are no books. 

There are unknown contemporary records, buried either in 
remote publications or between the dusty covers of incon- 
ceivably tedious tomes, which have to be gone through for the 
sake of the solitary paragraph, perhaps the solitary sentence, 
that may serve the occasion in view. And there are always 
the volumes, old and modern, which are compiled, not written, 
out of which a book might be evoked. To gather together 
some such old fragments, to prevent waste of truth, to rescue 
the few vivid facts and impressions embedded in ruinous 
remains — still more, if possible, to throw some light upon the 
characters of an age, and thus, indirectly, upon its events — 
these seem aims not altogether incompatible with usefulness, 
or with the modest means at an ordinary chronicler's disposal. 
And if the following pages, which disclaim any larger ambition, 
should succeed in lending vitality to a single personage, a 
single occurrence of the past, they will not have been written 
in vain. 

My thanks are due to Messrs. Longman and to the editor 
of the Edinburgh Review for permitting me to reproduce parts 
of an article on " The Women of the Renaissance," pubhshed 
in that periodical last April. 

EDITH SICHEL. 



CONTENTS 

BOOK I 
CHAPTER I 

PAGE 

Catherine de' Medici . . . • . . . j 

CHAPTER II 
The Youth of Catherine de* Medici .... 29 

CHAPTER III 
Diane de Poitiers . . . . . . . •43 

CHAPTER IV 
The Court of Henri II 71 

BOOK II 

CHAPTER V 
The Reign of FRAN901S II 10 1 

CHAPTER VI 
The Princesse de Cond6 119 

CHAPTER VII 
Jeanne de Navarre ^37 ' 

CHAPTER VIII ^ 

The Council of Poissy ^59 

CHAPTER IX 
The Huguenots . . . ^^9 ^ — 

vii 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

■ CHAPTER X 
Catherine and the Prince de Conde .... 205 / 

CHAPTER XI 
~"^Why the Reformation Failed in France . . . . 231 ^ 

CHAPTER XII 
Ronsard and the Pleiade . . . . .241 

CHAPTER XIII 
Ronsard and the Elizabethans ..... 265 

CHAPTER XIV 
Catherine and the Arts . . , . » . . 291 ^ 

CHAPTER XV 
Bernard Palissy . 303 



vm 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. 

Catherine de' Medici. By Pourbus (Uf&zi Gallery, 

Florence) ....... Frontispiece 

Catherine De' Medici. By Clouet (Musee de Versailles) to face page 32 

Henri de Valois (Henri II.) in his Youth. By Fvangois 

Clouet (Chateau de Chantilly) . . • ,» »» 38 

Diane de Poitiers. Portrait in enamel, by Leonard 

Limousin (Collection Soltikoff) . . . . „ ,» 48 

Marguerite de Valois, Reine de Navarre (La Reine 

Margot) Vers. 1555. Portrait anonyme. Biblio- 

theque Nationale . . . . . „ „ 7^ 

The Three Colignys : The Cardinal de Chatillon ; 

The Admiral ; The Marechal d'Andelot. 

Drawing of the French School, in the Bibliothdque 

Nationale .......„„ 88 

Marguerite de Valois, Duchesse de Savoie. By 

Frangois Clouet (Bibliothdque Nationale) . ,, „ 94 

Antoine de Bourbon, Roi de Navarre. By Frangois 

Clouet (Chateau de Chantilly) , „ 102 

Renee de France, Duchess of Ferrara. By Jean 

Clouet (Chateau de Chantilly) . . . . „ „ 138 

Jeanne d'Albret, Reine de Navarre. By Frangois 

C7oMe/ (Biblioth^ue Nationale) . . . „ „ 142 

Louis de Bourbon, Prince de Conde, Vers. 1565. 

Portrait anonyme (Bibliothdque Nationale) . „ „ 206 

Anne de Montmorency. By Jean Clouet (Chateau de 

Chantilly) , „ 222 

ix 



SUMMARY OF HISTORICAL EVENTS 
FROM 1547— 1562 

HENRI II 

15^7-59 
Married Catherine de* Medici. 

CONTEMPORARY SOVEREIGNS 

POPES CLEMENT VII, PAUL III, JULIUS III, MARCELLUS 
II, PAUL IV. 

EDWARD VI, MARY and ELIZABETH, of ENGLAND, the 
EMPEROR CHARLES V, FERDINAND of AUSTRIA, and 
PHILIP II of SPAIN. 

Alliance with the Protestant Princes of Germany against 
Charles V for political, not religious purposes — Passing 
of Edict of Chateaubriant, a decree against the Protestants 
published by Henri II to exonerate himself from the 
charges of heresy which followed upon his negotiations 
with Germany 1551 

Campaign against Charles V — He besieged Metz, which was 
occupied by the French under Fran9ois Due de Guise, 
but after two months he was compelled to raise the siege — 
The French took Metz, Toul, and Verdun . . . 1552-3 

War raged in the Netherlands — Truce of Vaucelles, between 
the French and Charles V — He abdicated in 1556 and 
retired to the Monastery of Yuste, leaving Austria with 
the imperial title to his brother, Ferdinand, and Spain, 
the Netherlands and his possessions in Italy to his son, 
Philip 1553-6 

Henri II formed an alliance with Pope Paul IV against PhiUp, 
from whose encroachments the Pope saw himself obUged 
to defend Italy — One French army was sent to Italy 
under the Due de Guise ; another was sent to the Nether- 
lands under the Conne table de Montmorency . . . 1556 

Guise defeated near Civitella — Great defeat of Montmorency's 
army at Saint-Quentin — That town was occupied by 
Coligny, to whose aid Montmorency was hastening when 
he was met and routed by the enemy under Philibert 
Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy . . . . . • I557 

Guise hastened back from Italy and retrieved the fortunes of 

France by the recapture of Calais . . . .1558 

xi 



SUMMARY OF HISTORICAL EVENTS 

Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis between Henri II and Philip II, 
by which the French kept Metz, Toul and Verdun — They 
also kept Calais, pledging themselves to pay England 
500,000 crowns if they did not restore the town at the 
end of eight years — The two sovereigns restored to each 
other their respective conquests on the frontiers of Italy 
and the Netherlands, excepting in Piedmont, where 
Henri II kept several towns until such time as the rights 
of his grandmother, Louise de Savoie, should have been 
determined. On the other hand, 189 important French 
towns and castles in France, Italy and the Netherlands 
were made over to Philip II — Death of Henri II . • 1 559 

FRANCOIS II 

1559-60 
Married Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, 

CONTEMPORARY SOVEREIGNS 

POPE PIUS IV. 

ELIZABETH of ENGLAND, FERDINAND of AUSTRIA, 
PHILIP II of SPAIN. 

Conspiracy of Amboise — a plot of the Huguenots, secretly 
promoted by Conde, to abolish the tyranny of the Guises. 
The King and his mother, Catherine de* Medici summoned 
Antoine de Navarre and the Prince de Conde to Court, 
promising them safety ; but directly they arrived Conde was 
arrested at the instigation of the Guises and subsequently 
condemned to death — He was saved by the death of the 
King . 1560 

CHARLES IX 
1560-74 
Married Elizabeth of Austria. 

CONTEMPORARY SOVEREIGNS 

POPES PIUS IV, PIUS V. 

ELIZABETH of ENGLAND, FERDINAND of AUSTRIA , 
PHILIP II of SPAIN. 

Catherine appointed Regent — Antoine de Navarre made Lieu- 
tenant-General — Conde released — Passing of the " Ordi- 
nance of Orleans " (L'Hopital's measure) which aimed at 
reforming the corruptions of the Church and the 
administration of justice . . . . . .1560 

Passing of the Edict of July which declared the holding of 
Protestant services to be illicit, but proclaimed a general 
amnesty as regards religion — The assembling of the 
Council of Poissy at which Catholics and Protestants met 
to discuss their chief points of difference and if possible 
arrive at reconciliation — Failure of this attempt , . 1561 

xii 



SUMMARY OF HISTORICAL EVENTS 

The meeting of the Council of Saint-Germain to debate the 
religious question and the passing of the Edict of January 
which allowed Protestant services to be held outside 
towns though not in them, but forbade Huguenots to 
molest the exercise of the old religion . . . . 1 562 

Massacre of the Protestants at Vassy and religious disturbances 
all over the country — Conde took up arms in the Protest- 
ant cause and the first religious war broke out — The 
Catholic party invited the help of Spain, the Protestant 
party that of England, and foreign troops arrived from 
both countries — Elizabeth sent soldiers to help in the 
defence of Rouen which was taken by the Catholics — Death 
of Antoine de Navarre from a wound received before this 
city — Battle of Dreux between the Prince de Conde and 
the Due de Guise — Conde was taken prisoner . . . 1562 

Murder of the Due de Guise by a Protestant — Negotiations 
between the Regent and the Prince de Conde — Liberation 
of Conde and conclusion of the Peace of Amboise 
which abolished the Protestants* liberty of worship and 
gave away the Protestant Cause .... 1562 



Xlll 



AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 

CONTEMPORARY 

Lettres de Catherine de' Medici (5 vols.). - 

Lettres d'Antoine et de Jeanne d'Albret. 

Correspondance de Diane de Poitiers with Introduction — Guiffry. 

Correspondance de Marie Stuart. 

Memoirs de Vielleville. 

Memoirs de Gaspard de Tavannes. 

Memoirs de Guillaume de Tavannes. 

Memoirs de Marguerite de Navarre. 

Memoirs du Prince de Cond6. v 

Memoirs du Due de Guise. 

Memoirs de Rochechouart. 

Memoirs de PhiUppi. 

Memoirs de Henri II — Claude d'AubSpine. 

Histoire des Choses Memorables — Fleurange. 

Journal de Claude Haton. 

Journal de Pierre L'Estoilles. 

Journal de I'an 1562 — Revue Retrospective. 

Sur le rdgne de Fran9ois II — Regnier de la Blanche. . 

Discours de Michel Soriano, Venitien, touchant son Ambassade de ^ 

France. 
Le Livre des Marchands ou du Grand et loyal devoir. 
Histoire de TEglise R6formee — Theodore de BSze. 
Histoire Universelle — Agrippine d'AubignS. 
Histoire de Lyon — Paradin. 
Melanges pour I'histoire de Franfois I et Henri II, de Simon Goulart — 

Archives Curieuses. 
Lettre de Renee de Ferrara a Jean Calvin — Archives Curieuses. 
Sidge de Metz — Archives Curieuses. 
Tr^pas et Obsdques de Henri II — Archives Curieuses. 
Grand et magnifique Triomphe fait au mariage de Fran9ois de Valois 

avec tres-excellente Princesse, Madame Marie Stuart, Reine 

d' Ecosse — A r chives Curieuses. 
Lettres envoyees a la Reine Mere — Archives Curieuses. 
Le Fort inexpugnable de I'honneur feminin — Frangois Billon, 
Les femmes illustres — Brantome. 
Recepte veritable — Bernard Palissy. 
Discours admirables — Bernard Palissy. 
Lettres et poesies de Henri II. 
Poemes de Charles IX. 
Vie de Ronsard — Claude Binet. 

XV 



AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 

Oeuvres Poetiques — Ronsard: 

L'Art poetique — Ronsard. 

Preface sur la Musique — Ronsard. 

Des Vertus — Ronsard. 

Oeuvres choisies de Ronsard — Edited by Sainte-Beuve. 

r Illustration de la Po6sie frangaise — Joachim Du Bell ay. 

Lettres au Cardinal Du Bellay, etc. — Joachim Du Bellay, 

Oeuvres Poetiques — Joachim Du Bellay. 

Oeuvres Poetiques— -R^my Belleau. 

French Lyric Poets — Ed. by Saintshury. 

BIOGRAPHICAL 

Introductions Biographiques aux ** Lettres de Catherine de* Medici" — 

Le Comte de la Ferridre. 
Catherine de Medicis — Capefigue. 
Catherine de Medicis — Henri Bouchot. 
Eleonore de Roye — Le Comte Delaborde. 
Jeanne d'Albret — Miss Freer. 

Biographical Preface to the works of Bernard Palissy — Anatole France. 
Biographical Preface to the works of Joachim Du Bellay — Becq de 

Fouquiires. 
Biographical Preface to the works of Joachim Du Bellay — Marty* 

Laveaux. 
Biographical Preface to the works of Ronsard — Blanchemain. 
Biographical Preface to the works of Ronsard — Sainte-Beuve. 
Tableau du seizidme siecle — Sainte-Beuve. 
Vie de Philibert de I'Orme — Vachon. 
Philibert de I'Orme (Architectural Review, Feb. and March, 1904) — 

Reginald Blomfield. 
Germain Pilon et le Tombeau de Birague — Courajod. 
Notes sur la Chapelle des Orfdvres — Pichon. 
Biographic Universelle — Michaud. 
Nouvelle Biographic Generale. 
Dictionnaire de Bayle. 

LITERARY AND CRITICAL 

Causeries du Lundi — Sainte-Beuve. 

Manuel de I'histoire de la litt^rature fran9aise — Bruneti^re. 

Les Moeurs polies de la Cour de Henri II — Bourciez. 

Les femmes de la Renaissance — Maulde de la Clavidre. 

Les femmes de Brantome — Henri Bouchot. 

HISTORICAL 

Relations de la Diplomatic Venitienne — Baschet, 
The French Renaissance — Mrs. Pattison. 
Histoire de France — Martin, Vol. ix. 
Histoire de France — Michelet. 
History of the Papacy — Mandell Creighton. 
Florence — Herbert Gardner. 
For contemporary historical authorities see under " Contemporary." 

xvi 



BOOK I 

Catherine and Diane 

CHAPTER I 

Catherine de' Medici 



♦ AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 

Lettres de Catherine de* Medici. 

Biographical Introductions — Le Comte de la Ferridre. 

Relations de la Diplomatic V^nitienne — Baschet, 

Catherine de Medecis — Capefigue. 

Catherine de Medecis — Bouchot. 

Memoirs de Vielleville. 

Memoirs de Tavannes. 

Memoirs de Guillaume de Tavannes. 

Memoirs de Marguerite de Navarre. 

Les femmes de Brantome — Bouchot. 

Les femmes de la Renaissance — Maulde de la Claviire. 

Histoire de France — Michelet. 

Histoire de France — Martin. 

Dictionnaire de Bayle. 



1 



* Mr. Whitehead's scholarly Caspar d de Coligny appeared after th^ 
completion of this work. i 



2 



CHAPTER I 

Catherine de' Medici 

A TIME of decadence is a time of over-attention to 
detail — a^ time when the large outline of life is effaced 
and fine ideals are lost sight of, when great means are used for 
Httle ends and small issues are taken for big ones. In such 
phases of the world's history the whole spiritual currency 
becomes debased ; observance is substituted for reHgion, 
common-sense for wisdom, intrigue for statesmanship, while 
art degenerates into artifice and a noble generosity into an 
ignoble extravagance. For beauty itself loses rank, and from 
being the true servant of the princes who once bowed before 
it becomes the insignificant slave of tyrannical caprice. That 
a period of abnormal energy of mind tends to produce 
abnormal enervation in the succeeding age is no new dis- 
covery ; nor need we go far to find proofs of it in modern 
history, whether we seek them in the corruption of the 
Stuart Restoration following upon the great political 
upheaval, or in the laxity and nullity of the Directoire 
— the immediate sequel of the French Revolution. 

But nowhere is this truth so strongly embodied, so plainly 
visible, as in the latter half of the sixteenth century — the 
period born of the Renaissance — in France and in Italy. 
The impressionable Latin races, highly strung for good and 
evil, fell the most easily a prey to the emotional excesses 
and moral disorders belonging to a time of febrile exhaus- 
tion, when will was weak, and temperament defenceless, 

3 



f 

CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

The richer the summer, the completer and the deadlier its 
autumnal decay. Miasmic vapours and chill mists close 
round us, and strange scents of dead leaves oppress us as 
we follow the last hectic pomp, the pale gold funeral 
pageant of the dying Renaissance. 

In Italy, where the movement first began and soonest 
reached maturity, it also showed most quickly signs of 
degeneration, and the earlier half of the sixteenth century 
had already' witnessed its decline. But in France, where it 
developed later, its splendour was maintained throughout 
the reign of Francois I, and, indeed, it may almost be said to 
have continued through that of his successor. For if we 
except a growing decadence in art and an absence of 
romance in life, the general degeneration was hardly felt 
till the death of Henri II and his wife's accession to the 
Regency, in 1559. 

Every movement has its person, its representative ; and 
since men are entangled in actions and actions disguise 
motives, it is in women, the clear mirrors of current feel- 
ings and tendencies, that integral types of an age will be 
found. In Italy the prevailing corruption was so subtly inter- 
woven with poetry, its women were surrounded by so rich 
a glamour, that real outlines are hard to distinguish ; but 
in France, with its briUiant scepticism, its dry, scintillating 
atmosphere of matter-of-factness, types stand out as crisp and 
lucid as French aphorisms. In France, therefore, we shaU 
not be slow to find figures that sum up whole periods : 
women who are, as it were, epigrams, expressive of profound 
experience. 

If Margaret of Angouleme, the sister of King Frangois, queen, 
poet, philosopher," aesthete, mystic, was the epitome of the 
Renaissance, no less was Catherine de' Medici, regent, politi- 
cian, trimmer, patroness, cynic, the epitome of the decadence. 

Half French, half Italian, the daughter of a Bourbon princess 
and of a degenerate Medici prince, the niece also of Leo 
X, a characteristic Renaissance Pope, Catherine had every 
aid by nature and by training to become an accomplished 
cynic. She has hitherto figured as a kind of stage- villain, a 
mysterious figure surrounded by astrologers and secret 
drawers of poison-bottles, an eEect to which Dumas and 
occasionally Michelet, in a day when history was still an art 
and not a science, have contributed not a Httle. Nowadays 
science has mercilessly exterminated the race of villains and 

4 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

replaced them by the victims of constitutional infirmities. 
Perhaps truth lies, as usual, between two extremes. Her 
poison-cupboard at Blois, which once made history and is 
now proved to be a fable, is but a symbol of a whole mytho- 
logy that has gathered round her name. Personages who 
intensify the tendencies of their time, more memorable than 
their neighbours, are often made responsible for the crimes 
of their more anonymous contemporaries and we shall see 
that most of the sensational accusations against Catherine are 
based on no solid foundation. We may be sure that people — 
especially women — must always have seemed possible to them- 
selves, and hence monsters are necessarily unhistorical. Hence, 
too, whatever work of clearing helps to free the picture and 
make it tone with its surroundings, whether it be cleared from 
layers of encrusting black or of whitewash, must be a work in 
the cause of truth. History is not written in black and white, 
but in subtle greys and half-tints, and studying some character 
from the past is often like looking at a figure in a faded fresco 
on which we cannot get a full light. At first we see its robes 
as black ; then, as we search more closely and grow accustomed 
to the obscurity, we find that the draperies are not of one 
colour, but of manifold twilight shades, and it is only for the 
sake of convenience that we use positive terms at all. 
Catherine, with Medician craft in her veins, was far too diplo- 
matic to be anything positively. Frankness, even in sin, 
would have been to her a breach, not of morals, but of man- 
ners. She dealt in negative evil — a disease no less actual, 
and perhaps more poisonous, than the common sort ascribed 
to her. This sixteenth century princess was very like " der 
Geist der stets verneint." She was indeed as great, if not as 
startling a villain as tradition has made her, not, as tradition 
says, from having bad feelings, but from having no feelings at 
all. Catherine de' Medici was a mass of indifference. In- 
difference was the dominant note of her character — was no 
longer a negative quality, but a positive power — and entire 
indifference means entire cynicism. The person who becomes 
a cynic is often no more than a sentimentalist in disguise, but 
Catherine was a serious cynic, because she was an unconscious 
one, a person who sees things as they are, never as they may 
be. She drove common-sense to its absolute conclusion and 
judged every issue by its standards. Perhaps there is not 
one of her alleged crimes which condemns her so severely as 
does the Spanish envoy's description of her a few days after 

5 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

St. Bartholomew's Eve : " She has grown ten years younger," 
he wrote, " and always seems to me like one who has come out 
of a bad illness." 

Even her finer characteristics, when examined, seem rather 
due to the absence than the presence of a quality. It is 
remarkable that she should have kept her reputation intact, 
living, as she did, at a time of signal immorality, when ille- 
gitimate love affairs were part of the normal life of every lady 
of position. It would have been impossible for a princess to 
go unscathed by malicious tongues ; the scandals breathed 
against Catherine, however, such as her rumoured connection 
with Frangois, Due de Guise, obtained scant credence even 
at the time and were manifestly the invention of her enemies. 
She was indeed the most respectable bad woman on record, 
but her respectability is due to a want of inclination, of emo- 
tion, not to any standard of conduct. That she had no 
standard is evident from her dealings with other women, as 
with her " Flying Squadron " of attendants, for whom she 
deliberately planned liaisons de convenance for political pur- 
poses. Her severity was reserved, not for the crime, but for 
the criminal who allowed it to be found out. Before a breach 
of decorum or any moral clumsiness she was implacable, and 
the ladies who could not keep their faults to themselves were 
rigorously expelled from her Court. Her own immunity 
from blame shows that she was not, at any rate, the slave of 
low impulses, but it proves no sort of moral scruple. To say 
that she was free from prejudice is to say little : she was in- 
capable of forming any judgments save those dictated by con- 
venience. This freedom produces the effect, to some extent 
real, of a large mind. But the largeness that proceeds from 
fine proportions is one thing, that which comes from emptiness 
another ; and Catherine's mind had the width of an unfur- 
nished room in a marble palace — vast, mysterious, unlived in, 
and perilously cold. 

The tolerance which distinguished her (for all her acts of 
persecution were matters of political tactics), the Renaissance 
impartiality which should have served the world in good stead, 
ever fell short of nobility ; for it came from no moral outlook, 
no intellectual philosophy, but from a lack of conviction ; and 
since life is dignified only by conviction, her life remains 
undignified. The same may be said in many cases of her 
extraordinary self-control, even during the most trying period 
of her married life and of her rivalry with Diane de Poitiers — 

6 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

the period through which we shall follow her in these pages 
with admiration but with hatred. For her patience under 
contumely, her friendship with her husband's mistress , her 
long waiting for the moment of her power and her prompt use 
of it when it came, were all helped by her lack of spontaneity 
as much as by her Medician skill in dissimulation. The 
brutality of the later Medici lurked in her too. When self- 
control no longer served a purpose ; when the Court retired 
and she dropped the amazing etiquette to which she clung as 
a defence against her own violence, she sometimes gave way 
to accesses of blind rage which were almost insane. Her 
children, even the bold Princess Margot, learned to dread 
them and shrank before the loud insulting tones and rough 
indignities to which their mother subjected them. "£//c 
jetait feu,^^ wrote this daughter, " et disait tout ce qu'une 
colere outree et demesuree peut jeter dehors.''^ But the distant 
step of a courtier readjusted the balance and brought back 
her queenly demeanour. It is only when we have glimpses of 
the savage in her that we can realize the strength of her grip 
over her own nature ; or the effort she made to sustain that 
impenetrable calm on which she reckoned in herself. It was 
thus that she appeared to the wprld : " She from whose soul 
prudence was never parted, who moderated her actions accord- 
ing to her desire, demprr^trating plainly that the discreet 
person doeth nothingJi€ willeth not to do ; she who, in truth, 
never deigned to .amuse herself by showing her pleasure to 
others," so agaili wrote Princess Margot, who ought to have 
been a true reporter, since she had often been the victim of her 
mother's wrath. 

Catherine de' Medici, once removed from the footlights 
cannot but be a baffling figure ; and perhaps the only way to 
know her better is to get some general outline of her before 
entering upon the tangled and crooked story of her life. Most 
great ladies keep their public self apart from their private one. 
Catherine de' Medici perhaps united the two characters more 
closely than most people, but how she did so and where her 
two roles resembled one another will best be understood by 
looking at her in both aspects — by passing from Catherine the 
woman to Catherine the Regent. 

Moral indifference, as we saw, had possession of Catherine's 
nature ; but one desire was hers, by no means a moral one, 
which governed her quite as potently as her apathy and per- 
haps with more obvious effect. " All her actions," wrote a 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Venetian ambassador, describing her to his government, "have 
ever been ruled and guided by a most powerful desire — 
the desire to reign " : '''' un affetto potentissimo , . . un affetto 
di signoreggiare." It is this " affetto " alone which makes 
Catherine comprehensible in her private, as in her public capa- 
cities. Like a strong weed, it usurped the place of every other 
desire and exhausted the soil around her. It gave her a 
terrible vitality. It .made her policy and guided her religious 
views. It destroyed all confidence in her neighbourhood, 
creating enemies and withering friendships for her. Her 
children, and the Prince de Conde, so willing to be loyal to 
her, and Coligny, who might have been her support, were all 
sacrificed to it, and every bad deed she committed may with 
truth be ascribed to its workings. 

It has been already said that crimes not her own were prob- 
ably ascribed to her. That profound historian, Bishop Creigh- 
ton, has pointed out how this happened in the case of Ales- 
sandro Borgia ; and his conclusion that the frequent ascription 
of such crimes to high personages was a proof, not of their 
guilt, but of the low morality of their day, applies as much 
to Catherine as to the Borgias. We must remember that she 
lived at a moment when the classics and the history of later 
Rome were diligently searched for models of life, no longer 
with the scholar's zeal of the young Renaissance, but with the 
desire of the sated to find a new sensation ; that she kept 
Roman empresses as ideals before her eyes and easily adjusted 
their standards to those of the cardinals around her. Each 
age sets up its own virtues to admire, and common -sense and a 
determined policy, rather than mercy and honour, were the 
idols that her contemporaries had chosen to imitate. Mac- 
chiavelli was no Mephistopheles, but the normal philosopher 
and voice of his generation, and Caesar Borgia, strong, prudent 
and self-contained, was to him the pattern prince. Catherine 
was not the only Medici who was this great casuist's pupil> 
and Jesuitry applied to things temporal is, after all, not so 
shocking as Jesuitry applied to things spiritual. She certainly 
did not find much that was better than herself in her imme- 
diate surroundings. Diane de Poitiers and the Guises kept 
a special staff of doctors at Paris to put an unobtrusive 
end to the owners of benefices ; and Margaret of Angouleme, 
the patroness of Reformers, was forced to celebrate mass in 
her bedroom so as to avoid the poison which a prelate in 
high place was anxious to administer to her in the Communion 

8 



J 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

cup. And in addition to such facts, we must also bear in mind 
the religious conviction of kings that kings could do no evil, that 
they were part of the eternal order of things — a belief which 
even at funerals robed all Crown officials in red, the colour of 
eternity. It is small wonder that the actions of sovereigns 
waxed insolent and that they credited the Deity with their own 
indulgence for rank. " I think this very strange," wrote Cather- 
ine, when the Pope refused to make a cardinal of the Bastard 
of Angouleme, Henri IPs illegitimate son — " and surely the 
College should feel it a high honour to'count among their ranks 
the natural son of so great a king. I think that herein the 
Pope judges very badly, for he should rather buy such a noble 
chance than refuse the King and myself such a just and 
reasonable demand." This is the opinion not only of Cather- 
ine but of her whole generation, and though in her abnormal 
nature she was worse than her time — and than most times — 
she can hardly be said to be worse in her actual deeds. Of 
course, the heinous conception of St. Bartholomew's Eve, per- 
haps the most heinous ever imagined by a woman, must be 
excepted. But St. Bartholomew's Eve cannot be taken as a 
measure of her actions, for it was not a deliberate plan, but a 
forcing of her hand through her own shortsightedness. She 
had made the mistake natural to her. She had underrated 
Coligny and his power, which threatened to vie with her owr^.' 
His removal became necessary and the Guises were only too 
willing to be her agents in the matter. It was when they failed 
to kill him, when the rumour ran that the Protestants vowed an 
instant and general vengeance for this plot against their chief, 
that panic seized her. She felt she must effectually forestall 
them, and the result was the massacre. At this point it would 
be premature to enter into the strange pact, made seven years 
before, between her and Alva ; nor is it possible to say whether 
or how she would have fulfilled it, had not fear precipitated her 
into action. But thus much may here be hazarded — that St. 
Bartholomew's Eve would not have been the form of the 
fulfilment, and that therefore this terrible achievement of 
hers throws no real light upon her nature, excepting as it 
proves that she felt no bar in herself to such a business. It 
could hardly, however, have been the result of cold-blooded 
meditation, for she herself, who desired peace at almost any 
price, would have been the first to reject it as a blunder. 

The two murders for which she can be charged for certain 
are those of Coligny and LigneroUes. It may be held, indeed, 

9 



CATHERINE DE* MEDICI 

that intentions count as crimes and that a letter like the 
following ranks as manslaughter : " Try at whatever price to 
ruin his House " (so she writes to Tavannes about Maligny, 
the Protestant conspirator) ; " if it is needful, put your hand 
upon his collar and — if you can catch him — have him taken 
. . . secretly to some place so safe and hidden that no one 
can have news of it, and let me know of this with the utmost 
diligence." Catherine would have exculpated herself by the 
saving clause, "If it is needful." At all events, this cannot 
be reckoned as one of her direct deeds. Let us come to such 
as are direct. 

We know her motive and the means she took for the death 
of Coligny ; the reason for LigneroUes' disappearance was 
much the same. Once a " Mignon " of Henri, Duke of Anjou's, 
but fallen into disgrace, " he betrayed himself to King Charles, 
imprudently prated against the Queen-Mother, and proposed 
that the King should escape from her tutelage. His Majesty, 
incapable of so great a design, repeated everything to his 
mother, who, with the full consent of her children, had him 
killed ..." This is the matter-of-fact account of a con- 
temporary diarist — wonderfully devoid of dark lanterns and 
stage-effects. As for the other enormities of which she was 
accused, it would be as tedious as it is unnecessary to go 
through the long list of them, for they are all founded on 
scandal invented by her foes, chiefly by the Huguenots, 
and there were no greater scandal-mongers than the Hugue- 
nots. She shared the brunt of such evil reports with every 
monarch and prominent prelate of her day. There was a 
good instance of this when she and Charles V were both 
charged with poisoning the young son of Francois I, who died 
suddenly at Angers. Yet his death was obviously from 
pleurisy. He had overheated himself by jousting and had 
drunk a glass of iced water with speedy ill consequences. 
Catherine was far away at Fontainebleau. There was not a 
shadow of evidence against her, except the fact that the 
murder would make her Dauphine. The impeachment at 
this date, not many years after her marriage, was simply the 
result of the popular hatred for her as " the Florentine " and 
the general suspicion of her as a Medici. It was little better 
in the case of the Emperor. A Spaniard, under torture, con- 
fessed that Charles V had ordered him to poison the prince, 
but after the moment no one of weight gave credence 
to this unaccredited outburst from a poor pain-stricken wretch. 

10 



CATHERINE DE» MEDICI 

These details are worth considering, not in themselves, but 
because they reveal how full then was men's consciousness 
of murders and sudden death. 

It was unlucky for Catherine that she happened to have a 
taste for astrology and to have established an Italian astro- 
loger in a tower near her room. Yet nothing was more natural. 
Like all her contemporaries, she had a profound belief in stars 
and their influence. Astrologers were consulted in as common- 
place a way as doctors about the welfare of actions, expedi- 
tions, or even human affections. Such consultations were 
bound to take place in private, and love-potions and magic 
medicaments were their normal accessories ; but because, like 
other ladies, Catherine kept a store of phials in her sumptuous 
drawer at Blois, it does not follow that they need all be labelled 
" poison." 

These mysteries have also surrounded her with an atmo- 
sphere of moroseness. Yet this is far from the truth. To be, 
like her, devoid of the power of charming and yet to bend men 
and women to her will as she did, she must have possessed 
some strange fascination. And so it was. Her indifference 
did not betray itself socially. She was brilliant, acutely alive, j 
She had French wit and Italian verve in conversation, and she ^ 
must have known how to amuse, or she would not, in the early 
days of her marriage, have been the constant companion of 
Frangois I. Her wit, salt and shrewd, was of the broad col- 
loquial kind, well suited to cheer a jaded monarch. She 
understood how to laugh, not often, but aptly. " Then," 
wrote a Venetian envoy, " she began to laugh a great deal, 
as she always does when something takes her fancy." . . . 
" Elle riait son saoul comme un autre, car elle riait volontiers" 
reports Bran tome, ^^ et aimait d dire le mot et rencontrait 
fort Men, et connaissait Men ou il fallait jeter sa pierre et son mot 
et ou il y avait a redire^ Her power lay not so much in what 
she did as in her science of doing. She knew the right moment 
for laughing, and for weeping. For Catherine was, if we may 
say so, immensely feminine, and none grasped better than 
she that a woman's strength is in weakness. Several times 
ambassadors found her in tears, sometimes, more effectively 
still, with the tears in her voice. 

" One day she said to me " (writes the same envoy), " that 
if her misfortunes had happened to her, alone, amongst all the 
queens of France, she would think herself the unhappiest 
woman in the world, but she was consoled when she remem- 

II 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

bered that during the minority of kings, the great always 
plotted to get power .... And she added that she had once 
read at Carcassonne ... a manuscript chronicle which told 
how the mother of the King, St. Louis, who was left a widow 
with a little son of eleven, immediately encountered the 
opposition of all the great nobles of the kingdom ; for they 
rose in revolt to escape being ruled by a woman, above all, 
by a foreign woman ... It pleased God to give the victory 
to King Louis . . . Her Majesty, when she told me these 
things, applied them to the affairs of to-day ; she saw herself 
a stranger, without any one near her she could trust, and with 
a child between eleven and twelve years old . . . Whereupon 
I said to her : ' Madam, Your Majesty should feel a great con- 
solation in your heart, for since the things of the day seem, 
as it were, a mirror of the things of the past, you may be well 
certain that their end also will not be unlike ' . . . ' But,' 
she answered me, * I should not like any one to know that I 
had read this chronicle, for they would say that I was acting 
according to the example of this lady-queen, who was called 
Blanche, and was the daughter of the King of Castile.' " 

The part of the pathetic widow evidently impressed the 
ambassador and probably helped Catherine to get something 
she wanted out of Venice. And the intimacy, the bonhomie 
which this remote woman knew how to assume, must have 
been very endearing. She would invite the envoys to walk 
with her in the palace gardens, and pacing up and down the 
rich grass-paths and pleached alleys of the Tuileries, where 
Palissy's majolica toads and dragons peered out at unex- 
pected corners, she would discuss matters of State with them. 
" With those in whom she has confidence she gladly becomes 
expansive," so writes one of these diplomats. " You see 
with what confidence I talk to you," she said to another ; 
"well, I will say this much — that the Pope is no more than a 
man who understands nothing about State affairs." This 
looked like an indiscretion, but she probably meant the envoy 
to repeat it, and to set his government by the ears with the 
Pope. This vaunted expansiveness of hers was not always 
the best sign. Her courtiers were alarmed when she called 
them man ami, for they knew that it meant she was angry, 
or that she thought them fools. ** I entreat you, Madam," 
said one thus addressed, " to say Man ennemi at once." 

It must be added that her tears and smiles were not exactly 
hypocritical ; they were always near at hand. She was an 

12 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Italian, and therefore demonstrative, emotional. Little Mary 
Stuart, writing to her mother who was harassed by insurgents 
in Edinburgh, dwells on Catherine's sympathy : " The Queen" — 
she says — " did you the honour to cry bitterly." It is astonish- 
ing to find how caressive, how almost exaggerated in expres- 
sion she becomes to the few friends she chose from among her 
relations and dependents. " If you care for my life," she wrote 
to her sister-in-law, ** take care of your own health " ; and she 
begins a letter announcing a change of plan to an official, with 
a deprecatory, *' Vm afraid you will be angry." Sometimes 
she is almost high-spirited : " You are having such good 
cheer where you are," she says to a friend, " that you quite 
forget to send me any news of you. And as I know that your 
good husband and your good brother and you make up only 
one person, like the Trinity, I am not going to write three 
letters." Or again she writes to Montmorency ; 

*' My good gossip — Lansac told me that you asked if the 
King and I were going to stop more than one night at Chan- 
tilly. If you ask me for a day, I will give it you, on condition 
that I see you. As for more, now that you have heard me talk 
I am sure you will chase me from your house, though such is 
by no means your custom. Votre bonne cousine, Catherine." 

Her amenity was no doubt her best policy and deportment 
was part of her creed, but there must have been a real social 
amiability about her and a visitor at her Court is probably 
truthful when he tells us that she had " a most beautiful 
manner, and that both in her words and her gestures she made 
for pleasing everybody." This " need of pleasing " brought 
her plenty of work. The letters which she wrote, like most 
princesses of her day, to plead for numberless prot^g^s, or to 
get them suitable posts, were a work if not of kindness, at 
least of benevolence. Directly moral sympathy came into 
play Catherine was at a loss, and her letters of condolence are 
shocking to our modern notions. " I advise you while you 
are at home to dress yourself as comfortably as possible ♦ . . 
and to grieve as little as you can for things that cannot be 
mended." This is how she wrote to a lady who had just lost 
a much-loved parent. She had, it must be confessed, the ^ 
qualities of her failings. Her mental endurance, her un- L — 
ruffled stoicism were admirable. Like many Stoics, she had 
no faith in doctors for herself and often neglected her health, 
" for that she was of her nature very slow to complain." Thus 
writes her son Charles IX, who saw her in every contingency. 

13 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

" We must all do the same thing," she said of dying, " and it 
will come when God pleases, but I tell you firmly that nothing 
will induce me to take waters." And again, after a serious 
illness from an accident : " You ask for news of my fall, so I 
will tell you that it was a bad and a heavy one ; but, thank 
God, I was hardly hurt, and I am only marked on my nose, 
like the sheep of Berri." 

Nowhere perhaps do we feel her want of sympathy so much 
as in her relations to her children. It has been customary to 
believe that whatever Catherine was, she was an exemplary 
mother. But this was hardly the case. While she fought 
fiercely for their interests, she was usually fighting for her 
Regency and it cost her nothing to marry one daughter to a 
morose Spanish bigot and another — a reluctant little bride — 
to the profligate King of Navarre. It is true that during their 
childhood she was the most devoted parent, lavishing care 
upon them, giving them lessons, knowing every detail of their 
lives. But this was when they could not contradict her. 
Directly they developed wills of their own, it was another 
story. In the case of the vigorous Princess Margot, it was 
a story of constant scenes, sometimes of beatings. And yet 
she, the rebel, was fascinated by her mother, and when 
Catherine treated her as an equal companion and asked her 
opinion about affairs she enjoyed transports of pride. Fasci- 
nation, a word which may imply terror as well as pleasure, 
best describes the Queen's effect upon her children. Fran9ois II, 
of a weak and waxen character, was, as it were, mesmerized 
by her, and when he came to the throne he practically, if not 
formally, abdicated the crown in her favour. Charles IX, as 
weak, but with the intervals of sudden self-assertion common 
in feeble characters, was always the object of her contempt, 
her daughter says of her dislike ; yet she hid this feeling 
towards her son beneath the purple and ermine cloak of her 
outward deference to her King, and the vacillating boy bowed 
before her and yielded while he rebelled. For her two less 
prominent children, the Duchesse de Lorraine and the Due 
d'Alen9on, she does not seem to have had much sentiment of 
any sort. Decorum drove her to make much of them in 
public and to treat them with a ceremonious maternal affec- 
tion ; but the affection was like a court-dress of stiff brocade 
mounted upon a framework of whalebone. Elizabeth, the 
little Queen of Spain, she did love, with a love which increased 
considerably after the girl married Philip II, and became an 

14 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 



L.„.,„..,.,„....... 

^^ndante of her, and felt her premature death as she felt few 
other griefs. When Charles IX came to break the tragic news 
to her, Catherine was stupefied and retired speechless to her 
apartments. After a few hours only, she entered the Council 
Chamber : " Gentlemen," she said, " God has taken from me 
all my hopes in this world. From His hand alone I wait for 
comfort. I will dry my tears and dedicate myself wholly to 
the cause of the King, my son, and to the cause of God." Then, 
not without majesty, she proceeded to business. 

Perhaps the most human touch in her affection was given 
long after, when with a letter of minute injunctions, as import- 
ant as if they had been for a campaign, she sent two splendid 
dolls to her little grandchildren in Spain. It is the one piece 
of gaiety in all the mass of her papers ; her only acknowledge- 
ment, it would seem, that such a thing as play in life existed. 
Her real idol, however, the child whom, as Princess Margot 
tells us, she always adored, was the perverted Henri III, with-^ 
his beautiful hands and his decadent mind. But when, after 
his accession, he went against her wishes and endangered her 
power, she did not scruple to desert him or to join his enemies. 
Her affetto di signoreggiare was more to her than he was. 
Matters might have been different if her children had loved 
her ; but though they admired her with awe, though she was 
the excitement of their lives and her praise their chief desire, 
they lived in too much dread of her to give her a place in their 
hearts. 

One feeling Catherine had, apart from ambition and self- 
interest, one feeling that slumbered deep, like some subter- 
ranean current, in her enigmatic nature, actuating deeds and 
producing results that the world has ascribed to other causes. 
This feeling was her love for her husband, a love that was 
never requited. The fact has been too much overlooked in 
the general interest that surrounds his attachment to Diane 
de Poitiers. And Catherine, " slow to complain," kept her 
secret with dignity. She never reproached him, and she 
served him faithfully with a wistful and thankless devotion. 
Perhaps the primitive woman in her came out the most clearly 
in this — that she kept her love for the one being who spurned 
her. Henri even roused fear in her, and this caused a certain 
shyness which made her awkward in his presence and pro- 
bably prevented her from pleasing the naturally taciturn 
King. But her sentiment influenced her life in ways that have 

15 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

hardly been recognized. It kept her from rebelling against 
his wishes, even when for her they meant indignity ; and, 
had it not been for this attachment, she would not have waited 
for his death to oust Diane de Poitiers. It was not till she was 
a widow that she told her trouble to the one confidante she 
had, her daughter, Elizabeth of Spain. This letter is the only 
bit of self-revelation amidst the multitude of papers that make 
up Catherine's correspondence, and as such, it is a precious 
human document, touching enough from such a woman. 

" M'amye,^^ she wrote, *' commend yourself very much to 
God, for you have seen me of old as contented as you are now, 
and believing that I should never have any trouble but this 
one, that I was not loved in the way I wished by the King, 
your father, who doubtless honoured me beyond my deserts ; 
but I loved him so much that I was always afraid of him, as 
you know well enough. And now God has taken him away 
from me ... In so far, m'amye, think of me and let me 
serve as a warning to you not to trust too much in the love of 
your husband." Those who care to pierce beneath the sur- 
face need not wait for her to tell them her secret. Some years 
earlier she had let her disappointed heart speak between the 
lines of a note that she sent the Conn^table Montmorency, the 
man whom at that time she most trusted : 
'^j" It was not the water that made me ill " — it ran — " so much 
as not having had any news of the King, for I thought that he 
and you and all the rest had quite forgotten that I was in 
existence . . Be sure that there is nothing whidrgives me 
such pain as to believe that I am out of his good graces, and 
out of his remembrance. So, as for me, my good gossip, if 
you wish me to live, sustain me as often as you can and give 
me constant news of him : that is the best regime I could 
possibly have." And again that same year : " I know full 
well that I must not have the happiness of being near him — 
which makes me wish that you had my place and I yours so 
long as the war lasts — and that I could do him as much service 
as you have done." 

Her longings were not satisfied, for she never gained his 
heart, or even a comer of it. But after her diplomatic suc- 
cesses in his service at Paris, at the time of his defeat at St. 
Quentin, he paid her greater deference. We can measure the 
extent of his neglect by the manner of his reward ; for from 
this date onwards, he made it his habit to come to her rooms 
every evening for an hour, instead of retiring at once to the 

i6 



CATHERINE DE* MEDICI 

company of Diane. Before this, except in public, she seems 
hardly ever to have seen him. 

It is impossible not to admire the dignity with which she 
bore this trial, a dignity born of absolute common-sense. It 
was a quality which ever distinguished her. Common-sense, \ 
indeed, sums up all the best side of her. Her letters to her '.^ 
children are full of it — letters by the side of which those of Lord 
Chesterfield seem spiritual. They are full of prescriptions, 
mundane and medical, for though Catherine disbelieved in 
remedies for herself, like many other people she believed in 
them for others. At one moment, she commands the 
poor little Queen of Spain to send away a lady-in-waiting of 
whom she had grown more fond than a queen should be ; at 
another, she begs the Bishop of Limoges, her ambassador at 
Madrid, to see that her daughter drinks pigeons' blood and 
cream for her complexion and takes regular exercise. She 
warns Philip that the girl has only been used to have meat 
twice a day and will suffer if she eats more ; and she daringly 
begs him, when Elizabeth is dangerously ill, to try some newly 
found cure. " In every country," she says, " illnesses are the 
same, but cures are different." Her notions of hygiene are\ - 
wonderfully advanced, and in a time which dreaded air and 
exercise like poison and shrank from innovations, it needed 
some courage to advocate them. But Catherine was an 
esprit positif. She had the scientific mind, much more 
than the artistic one, and even had some reputation as a 
mathematician. Had she lived at a period when science was 
more developed, she would have delighted in its discoveries. 
How little there was in her of the real artist, and how much 
of the luxury-loving patroness will be discussed later on. 

Common-sense makes a good administrator but a poor states- 
man, unless larger qualities accompany it, and Catherine had 
no larger qualities to bring. Hence, as a woman of affairs 
she failed. Her affetto di signoreggiare would lead one 
to expect a strong policy from her, and at first sight it is \ U 
bewildering to find how shifting, how wavering, how wanting I * I 
in strength was her rule. But reflection soon shows us that a 
government determined by no central principle, good or bad, 
must of necessity be weak. Catherine's only pivot was her 
own personal power : her one aim to keep the Regency at all 
costs. Hence her tactics changed with the chances of every 
day and were as variable as a woman's mood. The rule 
directed by personal likes and dislikes, of which her sex is 

17 c 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

usually accused, was stability compared to that of Catherine. 
jFoT she depended on parties — and parties altered every week, 
/or oftener. " // faut diviser pour regner^^ was one of her 
favourite maxims, and she sought to strengthen herself by 
sowing dissension between factions, a negative and hopeless 
programme which reduced politics to intrigue. At one 
moment, she was an extreme Catholic with the Guises ; at 
another, she attached herself to the Bourbons and their Hugue- 
not followers, according as she thought that her power 
depended on the support of either. She made love to Spain 
while she flirted with Elizabeth, so that she might have an ally 
in either case, and she destroyed the confidence of both.| She 
pretended to be Alva's admirer when Louis of Nassau was 
promising her son the Netherlands, and she ended by gaining 
nothing. Caesar Borgia, who sought his personal aggrandize- 
ment, at least desired a united empire and thus gave solidity 
and a certain splendour to his schemes. Elizabeth of England 
may have been whimsical, but she was not so ignoble as her 
" dearest sister of France," and she had the luck to possess 
a band of consummate counsellors. " Women rule in an un- 
seemly fashion," comments Catherine's friend, shrewd old 
Tavannes in his Memoirs ; " kingdoms are not like possessions 
and fortunes to which they can succeed. And few there are 
whose reigns have prospered like unto that of Elizabeth of 
England . . . These feminine enterprises are faulty for that 
they be timorous, vindictive, credulous, irresolute, incon- 
stant, sudden, indiscreet, vainglorious and ambitious — more 
than in any reign of man." Tavannes had not lived amongst 
French Court ladies for nothing. And other of his contem- 
poraries tell the same story. " In the administration of the 
realm," so writes one of them, " one would wish to see more 
ardour and more promptitude in Her Majesty, above all in 
her decisions. . . . She seemeth ever to proceed in fear." 
Her vacillation was indeed surprising, not only in public 
business, but in the little things of every day. " The truth 
is," says an envo}^ " that her irresolution is extreme, and that 
from one hour to another one hears her conceiving new plans. 
She changes her designs at morning — at evening — three times 
a day. Yesterday morning Her Majesty was at the Palace 
of Madrid, then she came to dine in Paris. After that she 
thought of going to the Pont de Charenton, but at the eleventh 
hour she changed her mind and went to the Bois de Vincennes. 
. . • And nobody at Court knows what he is expected to do." 

i8 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

/ She was, in short, a paradox — a compound of indecision 
and masterfulness. She hated emotion, and much in her that 
looks like indulgence was merely self-preservation. It was 
generally for politic ends that she promoted peace and ensued 
mercy. " When she wishes," says another Venetian diplomat, 
" she gives an answer which, while it seems quite decided and 
definite, will none the less turn out to contain no conclusion 
at all." Other and more recent politicians have tried this 
method, but it has seldom failed to land a nation in embarrass- 
ments. 

Catherine would certainly be almost intolerable to read 
about had she not been unhappy. And this she was, in public 
as in private life. Her tears were sometimes warranted and 
the want of some one she could trust, the machinations of 
those she thought her friends, were a sore trial to her. She 
was incapable of inspiring devotion and rarely inspired affec- 
tion. And she was unlike other queens in this, that no tradi- 
tion of romance has remained to surround her name with 
glamour. We hear of no lovers, no deeds of daring done for 
her sake. We may at least pity her for this, that she was a 
very lonely woman. " I know," writes one who saw her often, 
" that she hath many times been found in her closet weeping ; 
but of a sudden she hath dried her eyes, dissembled her sorrow, 
and, to the end that she might deceive those who judged of 
the true state of affairs by the expression of her countenance, 
she hath shown herself to the world with a calm and joyous 
mien." It was only with Alava, the Spanish envoy, that she 
allowed herself to break down. One day, as she came from 
the Council Chamber, she took him by the hand. " Why do 
you smile ? " said she. " Will Your Majesty allow me to tell 
you ? " " Speak," she replied sharply. " Well, Your 
Majesty's eyes are swollen with sleep, one would think you 
were waking from a dream." " It is but too true," and the 
tears rose to her eyes, " I have every reason to appear dreamy, 
for alone and single-handed I bear the burden of affairs. You 
would be amazed (so she spake) if you understood what has 
just happened. I no longer know in whom I trust." And 
yet through weal and woe her spirit wore its regal armour- 
polished and curiously inlaid, like the Renaissance armour 
in museums. "She it is," writes Correr, one of the ambassadors 
from Venice, **who has preserved at Court the only vestige of 
royal majesty which is still to be found there. That is the 
reason why I have ever rather pitied than blamed her." Here 

19 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

again we feel how much the Queen-Mother was a woman. 

There existed, as it were, four main currents in her life 
which compelled her course — four shaping influences suc- 
cessively at work — and the names of these four influences 
are Diane de Poitiers, Philip of Spain, the House of Guise, and 
the party of the Huguenots. In her attitude to these forces 
lies the secret of all her actions. The first three are so closely 
interwoven with her story that they can only be dealt with 
in their due place. Of her relations to the Huguenots we 
must take a preliminary view, for without such a view the 
roughest survey of her would be incomplete. 

That Catherine coquetted with the Protestants in England 
and the Netherlands for political ends, that she dallied. with 
Elizabeth and the House of Orange, is a well-known history. 
It is more interesting to investigate her own opinions and to 
/discover from contemporaries how much in her earlier and 
! middle life she leaned towards Protestantism. It need hardly 
be added that the leaning was an intellectual one. Religious 
beliefs she had none. But she considered that Protestantism 
was the faith of ceux de Ventendement, as her son Henri 
d'Anjou and his friends expressed themselves when in their first 
youth they, too, frankly affected the Huguenots. Catherine 
would always have been on the side of cleverness, and besides 
this, the Reformers' tenets of freedom of conscience and per- 
sonal responsibility appealed to her strong sense. So did their 
attitude towards the Pope, whom Catherine was alwaysjrather 
willing to defy as " no more than a man." When she was 
still Dauphine, a wave of fashionable Protestantism swept 
over the Court and it lasted well into Henri II's reign. But 
it meant little more than that every one, from King to secre- 
tar>% was in love with Marot's Psalms, and sang them where- 
ever he or she went, whether with hawk on wrist or at the 
prie-Dieu. Each individual at Court had his favourite Psalm 
— a courtier's paraphrase, as different from the original as his 
religion was from real piety. " And if there was one person 
who loved ... and sang them habitually, it was the late 
King Henri," wrote a Court secretary, *' so that Diane and all 
his favourites loved them too, or usually pretended so to do. 
And they said, ' Sire, may not this one be mine ? ' or ' Do give 
me that one, please ' . . . And oftentimes he set about sing- 
ing the aforesaid Psalms with lutes, viols, spinets, flutes, 
among which rose the voices of his choristers." Catherine 
found her own private consolation for the King's neglect in 

20 



I 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 



singing the one she had made her own : " Vers VEternel, des 
oppresses le Pere'' and she had it constantly on her lips. 
Private readings of the Bible also came into vogue under the 
influence of that really serious woman, the mystic, Margaret 
of Angouleme, and Catherine — unlike her fellows who enjoyed 
dabbling in a kind of drawing-room heresy — took a real 
interest in this new study. " At that time," says one who 
wrote to her in later days, " you recognized Him, you honoured 
His Holy Bible, which was in your coffers or on your table, 
in the which you looked and read — and your women and your 
servants had the happy privilege of reading the Scriptures, 
and only the nurse, who did not love you any more than she 
loved God, was furious thereat." With Catherine the taste 
remained after the fashion died out, and showed itself plainly 
enough in the first years of the Regency — a taste no doubt 
sharpened by the fact that Diane was the head of the Catholic 
faction. It may be objected that the executions that took 
place after the Huguenot conspiracy of Amboise, that Cathe- 
rine's treacherous conduct in first inviting the Huguenot, 
Conde, and then imprisoning him, did not look much like a 
tendency towards Protestantism. But the cruelties at 
Amboise were mainly the doing of the Due de Guise, and 
whatever voice Catherine had then, as well as her behaviour 
to Conde, were strictly political matters. At that moment 
she believed that her Regency depended on the Guises, so she 
let them work their will and ruin their foes. But directly 
the support of Conde and his brother of Navarre enabled her 
to do without them, she gladly threw them over, and it was, 
as always, with relief that she resumed her dealings with the 
Protestants. It was when she organized the Conference of 
Poissy (1561) that she first fully embodied her views : the 
Council in which Catholics and Protestants, the Cardinal of 
Guise, and, if possible, Calvin, were to meet together and 
thrash out their differences in amicable discussion before 
Queen and Court. Such a conception fitted well with her 
policy of moderation and peace, her knowledge that the pacifi- 
fication of the Church meant the pacification of the State ; 
but at this time there was more in it than that — there was a 
sincere desire for conciliation. Catherine's fine moments were 
not too many, but this was the finest of her life. Her intellect, 
not her moral insight, made her see that truth was not synony- 
mous with any creed, that each sect fought for its own hand, 
and that the best chance for true religion was that all should 

21 



CATHERINE DE* MEDICI 

come to some agreement. Her letters of this date are full of 
it ; they, too, rise to a different level from any of the others. 
And when her preparations were complete and the Protestant 
ministers arrived, her welcome to them was warmer than 
mere expediency required. Calvin did not come, but she 
treated their chief, Theodore de Beze, with flattering famili- 
arity, summoned him to her private room and made him 
discuss his tenets with her. She even went so far as to hold 
" Preches," as the Huguenots called their form of worship, 
in her own apartments, with all the Court as congregation. 
Her son, Henri, frankly avowed his adherence to the Hugue- 
nots and, without interference from Catherine, persecuted 
his little sister. Marguerite for her orthodoxy. There is no 
stranger page in the annals of this strange family than 
Marguerite's account of how her brother came to her — a 
child of eight — and found her reading her Office ; how he threw 
her prayer-book into the fire, telling her that only stupid 
people were Catholics, that all cultivated folk were Protes- 
tants, and that if she continued to read it she should be beaten 
every day. " All the Court (she says) was infected with 
heresy," and many lords and ladies urged her to change her 
opinions as strongly as her brother. No wonder that such 
doings drew down the angry remonstrance of Philip's envoy, 
who sent his master detailed accounts of these vagaries. From 
that year, 15^1, until St. Bartholomew's Eve, in 1572, the 
complaints of Spain against Catherine's heterodoxy never 
ceased, even when political changes had transformed her 
attitude into one of severity. 

Her Regency was a protracted quarrel with the various 
ambassadors from Madrid. Those from Venice, too, express 
themselves boldly on the subject : " It is well-known," writes 
Suriano, " that several of the women who are most intimate 
with the Queen are suspected of heresy and of bad conduct ; 
and everybody is aware that the Chancellor in whom she 
trusts is an enemy of the Roman Church and of the Pope. We 
saw, too, how tepid were her efforts to protect the Catholic 
party." One might pick out a score of passages Hke this one 
from diaries, letters, despatches, official and unofficial, which 
show how the land lay. " The Queen favours the Huguenots 
as usual," Tavannes ironically observes in 1562, and he might 
have added that, owing to her influence, the Huguenot party 
was increasing at Court, especially among great ladies. Her^ 
choice of the Chancellor, rH6pital,oneof the only noble figures \ 

22 ' 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

bi this ignoble generation and a man with strong Protestant 
leanings, was in itself a bold stroke. At first, before it became 
too perilous, she was frank and even courageous in her 
'espousal of the Protestant cause. The people of Paris, none 
too fond of their foreign Regent, at one time made a demon- 
stration against her because she tried to stay their cruelties 
and insisted that the right to punish heretics must be reserved 
for her magistrates. Decrees of indulgence like this were 
constantly proclaimed by her. But when the Huguenot 
revolts broke out in the provinces, when the flame of religious 
war burst forth, when Conde, tired of her Jesuitry, wielded 
his sword unconditionally against her, her attitude began to 
alter. The Protestants had become a political danger ; Spain 
suspected her ; her Regency was in jeopardy ; every thing must 
yield to that. She still, however, when she could, gave way to 
the mood of leniency and the change in her was not definitive 
till after the murder of Frangois, Due de Guise, by the hand of 
a Protestant in 1562 ; still more so, after her mysterious 
journey to the Spanish frontier (on the pretext of seeing her 
daughter) and her secret conference there with Alva. What 
really passed between her and that dread man will never be 
known, since it was not matter for pen and paper. But after 
their meeting she stepped forth as the declared foe of the ever 
rebellious Huguenots, and worked in this capacity till the 
final catastrophe of St. Bartholomew's Eve. Nevertheless, one 
has only to read her letters to understand that her conduct 
sprang from no change of opinion. Its cause lay only in her in- 
security ; in the hostility that threatened her on all sides from 
the rebels within her realm, and from Philip of Spain, who 
was watching lynx-eyed for the chance of incriminating her 
orthodoxy. The feat which she accomplished two days before 
the massacre, her daughter Marguerite's marriage with Henri 
de Navarre, the chief of the Huguenot party, proved her 
dread of Spain ; for this match with the King of Navarre was 
a last diplomatic attempt to rivet to herself an ally against 
Philip and to make herself sure of the country that lay be- 
tween the Pyrenees and France. But no less clearly did it 
show that her old liking for the Protestants was not extinct. 
The bridegroom was allowed to lead his bride up to the church- 
door only, and, after the marriage ceremony on the threshold, 
to withdraw and leave her, so that his ears might be saved 
from hearing Mass. 
Catherine's crest of a rainbow, with her accompanying 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

motto, J^apporte la lumiere et la serenite, seems at first 
sight something of an irony. But though it never was true 
of her practice, it was at least true of her aspiration in the 
earlier years of her Regency. The Catherine of 1560 respected 
light and cultivated serenity. The Catherine of 1572 had 
lost her way and her calm had become a mask. And it is 
these two Catherines that we find in her many portraits. We 
can trace her development from the day when she was a plimip 
little girl of twelve, with rather heavy cheeks and prominent eyes 
and thick coils of hair. The bride of fifteen, the young woman 
of twenty to twenty-five, grows maturer in expression and 
'^improves in outline; but the Catherine of thirty to forty is 
j Catherine at her best. *' She is a beautiful woman when her 
' face is veiled," says another writer ; " I express myself thus 
because she is tall, her figure is elegant, and her skin delicate ; 
but as for her face, it is not at all beautiful ; her mouth is too 
large and her eyes big and pale. Many people say that she 
bears a striking likeness to her uncle, Leo X." This is the 
Queen whom Francois Clouet drew, with lines as strong and 
supple, with curves as crafty and elusive, as the character of 
his sitter. Catherine needed to wear no outward gauze. 
There is ever a veiled look about her face, and the colourless 
eyes beneath the braids of brown hair, the full, rather hang- 
ing lips, add to the mystery, the inhuman mystery, of her face. 
In the Catherine of 1572 and later, all these characteristics 
have grown excessive. The subtlety, which in earlier days, 
when fulfilment was still to come, could not fail to arouse 
curiosity, has now lost its interest ; the face is more blood- 
less, the cheeks and jaws heavier, while the massive double 
chin coarsens the whole impression. Catherine, we know, 
grew so unwieldy with age that she could hardly walk, and 
we feel that her mind also grew grosser and shut itself in, and 
that she even lost her cunning as a player of State-chess. 

The Catherine of history has been drawn for us by Clouet ; 
Pourbus, too, has painted her as truly, and yet, perhaps, with 
more sense of the drama in which she played. The portrait 
hangs in the long passage between the Pitti Palace and the 
Ufizzi, and it shows us Catherine de' Medici when she was 
about thirty years old. The baffling eyes, the fullish lips, 
the long broad forehead, the rounded cheeks are all before 
us. Robed in rose-pink satin sown with Orient pearls, a black 
train flowing behind her, a jewel glowing at her breast, she 
stands before us as if she thought that she would endure for 

24 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

ever. Young, remote, relentless, pre-eminent without being 
great, she dominates the gallery-wall to-day as she once domi- 
nated the world of her own generation. 

Great ages produce great figures — not one but many — 
and the few that stand forth from the rest only prove their 
greatness the more by rising above 'the high level of those 
around them. At such a time the general air is electric ; the 
public, the artists, the geniuses are all bound together by the 
something they have in common : some ideal of beauty or 
conduct which makes the one understand the other. In Italy, 
the quattrocento painters — in Germany, the band of fifteenth 
and sixteenth century philosophers and reformers — in Eng- 
land, Shakespeare and the Elizabethan poets — show us, each 
group in turn, the richness of the generation that produced it. 
It is, in itself, the sign of a decadent period when one figure 
alone dominates everything ; a figure with no adequate back- 
ground, an exception crushing all around. Such an one 
exhausts, even vitiates, the air about it and increases the 
corruption which first favoured its own existence. For a 
power is bound to act powerfully, and when it meets nothing 
to work with it is a bad business. Such single personages 
were Napoleon Bonaparte and Philip of Spain ; such would 
have been Caisar Borgia and, perhaps, our Elizabeth, had they 
lived amidst poorer surroundings ; and such was undoubtedly 
Catherine de' Medici. She, like Napoleon, used up the vitahty 
of the soil and made it impossible for any big idea to grow 
there. 

This was perhaps one important reason of the failure of 
Protestantism in France. There are many others — to be dis- 
cussed in their place. But this much may be asserted : that 
the real growth of Huguenot beliefs came too late, when the 
vigour of the Renaissance was over. It is easy, it is plausible, 
to regard Catherine as a murderer of ideas as well as of men. 
But no person can kill an idea. The real assassin is the de- 
cadent tendency which makes a Catherine de' Medici possible 
and uses her as its agent to achieve its own terrible mission. 



25 



CHAPTER II 

The Youth of Catherine de Medici 



27 



AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 

Biographical Introductions — Le Comte de la F erf tire, 

Histoire de France — Michel et. 

La Renaissance — Michelet. 

History of the Papacy — Creighton. 

Relations de la Diplomatic Venitienne — Baschet. 

Histoire des choses memorables — Fleurange, 

Catherine de Medicis — Henri Bouchot. 

Florence — -Herbert Gardner. 



28 



CHAPTER II 

The Youth of Catherine de' Medici 

CATHERINA Maria Romola de' Medici was born in 15 19. 
She t was called Romola — the favourite Florentine 
name — in honour of her great-uncle, the Medici Pope, Leo X. 
Her father was Lorenzo of Urbino, Leo's nephew and the great- 
nephew of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Her mother was 
Madeleine de la Tour d'Auvergne, the child of Jeanne de 
Bourbon and of the Seigneur de Latour, a descendant of 
Geoff roi de Bouillon. Their wedding was one of the most 
sparkling that lives in the pages of the old chronicles. It took 
place at Amboise by moonlight, et fut halle le plus possible, 
the Loire giving back the thousand flames of the torches and 
the torches firing the precious stones on the dancers' dresses, 
as they trod their stately pavanes, or held high revel on the 
terrace. It was prophetic that Amboise, so often to be 
Catherine's home, the place where she brought up her children, 
the scene of the chief plot against her, should have witnessed 
the marriage of her parents. She was bom a year later. 
Medician craft and Medician sumptuousness, Bourbon arro- 
gance and Bourbon dignity were born in lier blood ; the 
acuteness of Italians, the practical genius of the French, were 
her natal dower. Her mother died at her birth ; her father 
decadent, worn out, followed his wife a few days after, and his 
mother, Alfonsina Orsini, took charge of her orphan grand- 
child. Alfonsina was a great lady, a patroness of artists, any- 
thing but a grandmother — and, at five months old, the poor 
infant nearly died. From her birth, Catherine was the 
centre of intrigues. The question of her marriage was dis- 
cussed round her unquiet cradle (in which cradle, it is said, 
she was painted by Andrea del Sarto) and, before she was a 
year old. Pope Leo summoned her to Rome. Secum fert 
aerumnas Danauniy* he exclaimed when she was borne into 

* She brings with her the calamities of the Greeks. 
29 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

his presence. This was quite the Renaissance Pope 's con- 
ception of the way to address a baby, and he might have 
added with truth that, Hke all the people around her, he did 
not regard her as a child, but as a little pivot for the strug- 
gling Medician interests. He died, however, in 1521 and 
her grandmother a year earlier. Alfonsina's daughter, Clarissa, 
the wife of Philip Strozzi, took her place as the little 
Catherine's guardian — a stern stiff woman of the grand 
style, who had a religious sense of what was due to 
family. Her one notion of education was to give her little 
niece a serious idea of her high postion, to teach her from the 
time she could toddle that in her the great lady must come 
before the baby — so that from the first the child grew up in a 
bleak, sunless atmosphere, the tall palace walls shutting 
out the light. As she became older, the harshness of her educa- 
tion told upon her and trained her to be an adept in falsehood 
and in cunning. Her condition was certainly desolate. Her 
only close relation, her half-brother Alessandro, afterwards the 
infamous Duke of Florence (the illegitimate son of her father 
and a Moorish woman) was hardly an attractive connection. 
He had an unbridled temper which estranged her from him, 
and there was no confidence between them. Then, as later, 
her cousin Hippolyte, afterwards the Cardinal de' Medici, 
was the only person for whom she had any affection. A kind 
of companionship grew up between the two and they sought 
each other more as time went on. As for her cousin,* the second 
Medici Pope, Clement VII, she saw, with unchildlike clearness, 
that he only used her as a tool for his own ends. 

* It is noteworthy that the French historians always speak of 
Catherine as the niece of Clement VII, whereas, she was, in reality, 
only his nidce a la mode de Bretagne, being his second cousin once 
removed, as the following table will show. 

Piero de' Medici 



Lorenzo il Magnifico Giuliano 



Piero Giovanni (Leo X). Giuliano 

I Due de Nemours 

Lorenzo of Urbino 



Giulo (Clement VII 



Caterina (Catherine de' Medici) 

30 



Ippolito (Cardinal) 



THE YOUTH OF CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

The years 1525 and 1526 were troubled ones for the Medici. 
There was an organized movement against them, and Cather- 
ine's presence in Rome became a peril. One day the Cardinal 
Passerini appeared and carried her oft in a coach to the Palace 
of Poggio Caiano, near Prato, and thence to Florence, to the 
austere convent of Santa Lucia, once dear to Savonarola. 
But she was never long in one place. This time it was her 
aunt who fetched her and hastily brought her to the Medici 
Palace, which was then in a state of siege. Ottaviano de' 
Medici was defending it against the Florentines, who once more 
had risen against his House. The risk grew so imminent that 
the luckless little Princess was soon moved back again to her 
nunnery. In 1527, when Florence was bombarded by Pope 
and Emperor, Clement redemanded the girl, but she was 
denied to him. After this, for a space, her life was a series of 
flittings from one unhealthy nunnery to another, till finally 
she found some sort of haven with the mms of the " Mur- 
ate" Convent. It stood where now stand the "Prigioni" of 
Florence — not much less prison-like than they — at the end of 
the long narrow Tuscan street, the Via Ghibellina. 

The child was given the cell to which another Catherine, 
the militant Catherine Sforza, had retired nearly twenty years 
before. The nuns made much of the " little Duchess," as 
she was called, and her letters and confidence in them, her 
desire to be with them long after she was Queen _of_France, 
make one of the few pleasant passages in her unnatural record. 
But even here her presence divided the convent into two 
camps, and the poor nuns were torn between their civic honour 
and their wish for peace. " These Murate Sisters taught her 
the art of opportune pretending," so says her distinguished 
biographer, M. Bouchot, and indeed, the cloistral habits im- 
posed upon her, the compulsory quiet that surrounded her, 
made the place not only a refuge, but a training-school of 
deportment. 

No wonder that she took root there in terror of the outside 
world, and that when the Signoria at last sent for her force had 
to be used to bring her to their presence. During her sojourn 
in the convent, the Medici had been expelled from Florence 
and the Republic once more ruled the city. The " Murate " 
had naturally become a nucleus of Medician intrigue, and 
during the siege of Florence by the imperial forces the Gov- 
ernment decided to remove her. They sent a great noble, 
Salvestro Aldborandini, for this puipose. " When Salvestro 

31 



CATHERINE DE* MEDICI 

arrived, after he had been kept waiting for some time, the 
little Duchess came to the grille of the parlour, dressed as a nun, 
and said that she intended to take the habit and stay for 
ever with these my,, revered Mothers . . . The poor little 
girl . . . was terribly frightened and cried bitterly, not know- 
ing to what glory and felicity her life had been reserved by 
God and the heavens . . . But Salvestro did all he could to 
comfort and reassure her, and took her (once more) to the Con- 
vent of Santa Lucia, where she stayed till the war was 
ended." As soon as she could, however, she ran back to her 
beloved Murate and, in the months that followed, she decided 
that she had the true vocation and would herself become a 
nun. Vocations at eleven years old — in all ranks of life — 
are apt to be rather illusory, and when, within the year, the 
summons came to her to take her place in the world as a 
princess, she caught at the prospect with an eagerness not un- 
like that of most other little girls of her age. Ottaviano de' 
Medici was sent to fetch her to Rome, and she went with a 
goodwill. 

" She has a very animated nature," says one who saw her at 
this time, ** she is small and thin in her person, with a face that 
has not one distinguished feature ; she has big eyes, quite the 
eyes of the Medici family." Such was the figure that stepped 
forth to meet Ottaviano, who, with a gorgeous cavalcade, 
awaited her at the convent door. We can imagine the scene 
as if it were some fresco in Florence : the endless street, the 
tufa palaces, the tall overshadowing houses on either side ; 
the glittering lords and ladies ; the pawing steeds, the scarlet 
trappings, embroidered on the grey background, with the 
chilly convent gateway in front ; the Duchessina passing the 
grillCy led by the Mother Superior and divested of her habit 
for ever, the dark-robed white-coifed nuns crowding round her, 
tearful but restrained by discipline ; and then the lengthy 
courtesies, the holding of a stirrup, the crack of a whip, and 
the whole coloured procession winding like an illuminated 
scroll along the sober street till it vanished out of sight. We 
can watch it, if we will, across the brown bridge of the Trinity, 
onward towards the road to Rome, and as the Porta Romana 
rises in massive strength before us, we can almost say that the 
Catherine approaching is still more than half a child, but that 
the Catherine who issues from it on the other side is already 
a woman, a politician. 
Who can be surprised that she entered the world armed 

32 




Cathkrine Dii' Medici. 

HY CLOUET. MUSEE I)E VERSAILLES. 

From a pJwtograf>h hv A. Gh-andon. 



V 



a- 



i 



THE YOUTH OF CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 



cap-a-pie with diplomacy ? Her experience of human nature 
had not been edifying. Unprotected save by monastic walls, 
she had always seen herself the centre of feuds and of plottings, 
and she knew now that her chance was to enter the arena herself 
and to outwit as she would certainly be outwitted. At Rome she 
was immediately installed as the Pope's relation — as a person- 
age with her own attendants. Her duenna, Maria Salviati (the 
daughter-in-law of Catherina Sforza) was, it is true, a severe 
Puritan, but Catherine was no more a child to be chidden. 
Her quick wit matured in the midst of Court life ; princes 
took note of her, ambassadors were charmed with her repartees. 
But the only person she cared for was, as of old, her cousin 
Hippolyte. Whether he showed any love for her, whether 
her feeling for him was more than a girlish sentiment, will 
remain moot points. It is known that Francois I of France 
had once wished that they should marry, and stories were 
afloat about them in Roman circles. Such a union, however, 
was far from the Pope's designs. Clement VII was bent on 
making a'splendid bargain of his kinswoman with a due regard 
to his own purse. Suitors in plenty appeared. There was 
James V of Scotland who was dismissed because Clement 
thought that posts to Edinburgh would be too expensive ; or 
Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, rejected as too old and too 
poor ; or the Duke of Mantua, whose morals were objected 
to. Others also were considered and discarded. But when 
Francois I despatched an embassy to open negotiations for 
his second son, Henri, Due d'Orleans, matters at once became 
serious. The French legate saw her and reported that she 
was graceful and portee a plaire, that she showed a need 
to be caressed and loved. It became evident that the Pope 
meant business. When a fresh ambassador arrived from France 
the conscientious Clement sent Catherine off to Florence, 
nominally to escape malaria, more probably to be removed 
from the danger of her cousin's neighbourhood. At the same 
moment, Hippolyte was heaped with sudden honours ; 
was sent on a mission to Turkey and allowed to assume for 
the occasion an especially distinguished Hungarian uniform. 
It is in this princely dress that Titian has painted him and 
that he will always live for us on the walls of the Pitti Palace. 
The pale, presageful face, the dark eyes, the sumptuous suit 
of mulberry velvet, and the cap to match that sits close upon 
his black hair — all breathe the spirit of romance, anc the deep 
shadow of the background intensifies the picture. Drama 

33 D 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

is written on his face and we feel no surprise when we learn 
that a few years later, when he was but twenty-five, he was 
treacherously poisoned by Catherine's half-brother, Alessandro. 
Meanwhile, among the people she saw there was no one so likely 
to attract her. Already a power in affairs, he was quickly 
made a Cardinal, a ad his great abihties and high ambitions 
were well suited to her own. It is impossible not to surround 
these two young people with some softening romance, as M. 
Bouchot has already done. But the Pope cared for no senti- 
mental considerations ; Hippolyte departed to Constanti- 
nople and Catherine led a rich, a new, existence among the 
artists and princes of Florence. Clement was all the time 
proceeduig to negotiate with France. The portrait of the 
young Due d' Orleans was casually shown to her ; envoys 
came and went, compliments were paid, and in 15 31, the affair 
was settled. History has many ironies, but none perhaps 
more pointed than that Catherine's marriage settlement was 
drawn up at Anet, where Fran9ois I and his Court were staying 
with Diane de Poitiers. 

No sooner was his scheme safe in port than Clement VII 
began to haggle about the dowry, and the difficulties that he 
raised took two more years to determine. " This man is the 
scourge of God," said the Cardinal de Grammont impatiently. 
The Pope did not mean to be at much expense and Rome — 
to its great impoverishment — was forced to provide the dowry, 
the trousseau, the wedding-presents and even the bride's 
travelling expenses. Among the gifts thus extorted were 
some fabulous pearls, worth a fortune, which afterwards passed 
to the next Dauphine, Mary Stuart, came with her to Scotland 
and finally were taken without a word and worn by Queen 
Elizabeth . The biographies of royal j ewels would make a signifi- 
cant volume. The French bridegroom and his father sent 
the bride " a sapphire tablet and a diamond cut en dos d'dne.'' 
Her dresses were the talk of Italy, her retinue was of the 
most distinguished. Hippolyte d'Este returned from Turkey 
to ride, grave and splendid, m her train. The Pope had de- 
manded his presence in order to put an end to gossip, but the 
young noble could hardly have fancied his position. Francois I 
tried to woo him with presents, but the only one he would accept 
was " a fine Barbary lion," though what he did with it history 
does not record. Tradition clings round the names of 
Catherine's ladies — Maria Salviati, Catherina Cybo, Palla 
Rucellai, and the rest. There were some so young that they 

34 



THE YOUTH OF CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

still had governesses, among them three coloured maidens : 
Marie the Moor, Agnes and Margaret the Turks, all taken in 
an expedition against Barbary and adding to the Oriental 
splendour of the bridal pageant. To crown all, the Pope was 
to accompany the retinue and witness the wedding at Mar- 
seilles, the place insisted on by Fran9ois for the meeting, as a 
proof of Papal deference to France. But true to himself, 
if to no one else, Clement temporized and dallied to the last, 
even to the moment of Catherine's farewell dinner at Florence, 
urguig his age, the sun, the dust, in order to escape from more 
perplexities. Go he did, however, and the great cavalcade at 
last set off. The marriage-contract can still be read with all 
its stipulations. France settled an immense sum upon 
Catherine, and the Pope promised her a dowry of thirty 
thousand golden crowns ; but the full sum was apparently 
never paid and Clement was generally supposed to have 
broken faith with France. 

Nothing could exceed the splendour of the wedding pageants 
at Marseilles. The chief figure there, strange to say, was not 
the bridegroom — still a half-fledged lad — but his father Francois 
I, behind whose dazzling personality the prince seems to dis- 
appear. Francois and Clement, the astute monarch and the 
crafty prelate, had a regal meeting, and while they dealt in 
ceremonious courtesies, they sounded the depths of one 
another's cunning. The Pope tried to make the King promise 
to undertake a crusade against the Turks, and the King tried 
to ascertain the Pope's real intentions towards the Powers of 
Europe. And all the time, on carpets of gold tissue, Hymen 
was spouting long Latin compliments and nymphs were reciting 
wordy verses to the newly-married pair. 

But the Pope departed, the feasting ended, and Catherine's 
married life began. There must at once have been cruel 
disappointment for this fifteen-year old bride. She, the polished 
princess, found herself the unwished for wife of a silent gloomy 
boy, who had nothing to say to her, or, for the matter of that, 
to anybody else. There is singularly little known about their 
early years together and the reason probably is because there 
is little to learn. They had not much individual life, moving 
tribally about with the Court in the strange crowded fashion 
of those strange days. Catherine might have found some com- 
pensation for what she missed in private life, had the public 
welcomed her more warmly. The marriage, however, was un- 
popular. Paris was disgusted at the expense it had incurred ; 

35 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

it turned a cold shoulder to her and her State entry there fell 
flat. For the country at large she was, from the first, " The 
Florentine " — an object of suspicion and dislike. She was, 
with some justice, accused of raising her Italian followers 
over the heads of the French, which did not help to mend 
matters ; nor did the Pope's shabby behaviour about her 
dowry induce France to love her better. Two years after the 
marriage, the Venetian envoy reports that the match was 
still objected to and that only Catherine's submissiveness could 
make her position possible. 

Even to her, the arrival at the French Court, that supreme 
school of etiquette, must have appeared formidable. She 
had written from Italy to beg Francois I to give her dancing 
lessons at Marseilles that she might not make an awkward 
impression on the French ladies. Her qualms were by no 
means unfounded. For these great personages were already 
jealous of the influence she would exercise over the King, and 
were not too well disposed towards her till they saw her por- 
trait. Her heavy cheeks and rather unformed look reassured 
them and they found consolation in talking over the royal bride's 
impecuniosity and the over-sumptuousness of her trousseau. 

Her chief lady was the friendliest. This was Mademoiselle 
d'Heilly, soon to be famous as Duchesse d'Estampes and as 
the mistress of Fran9ois I. It is strange that her fellow lady- 
in-waiting should have been Anne de Pisseleu, otherwise Madame 
de Chateaubriant, the woman whom she was soon to sup- 
plant in the King's affections. Marguerite de Vendome, a 
Bourbon and later Duchesse de Nevers, was also of Catherine's 
train ; so were Charlotte Gouffler, dame de Brissac, and Anne 
Gouffier, dame de Montreuil, the daughters of a rich and 
learned family — a retinue alarming enough for a girl of fifteen. 
But happily the King's sister. Marguerite d'Angouleme, Queen 
of Navarre, took her under her protection. To this loving and 
powerul lady Catherine had the skill to defer. From the 
moment she arrived in France, she took the role of the humble, 
appealing young girl, and she had the reward she wanted in 
Marguerite's constant friendship and good word with the 
King. This, perhaps, she hardly needed, for he encouraged 
her at once, and from the time he received her at Marseilles 
to the day of his death she was his constant companion. Her 
quick wit, her bold tongue, her acute insight pleased him. He 
loved fashion, and she did all she could, she even learned Greek, to 
be in the fashion, and to win him. Astride her horse, she rode by 

- 36 



THE YOUTH OF CATHERINE DE» MEDICI 

his side, his chosen comrade when he hunted in the leafy forests 
of Fontainebleau, and he liked her courage as much as he liked 
her talk. He lost no time in enrolling her in his famous Petite 
Bande — the troop of blondes and brunettes, who followed him 
in the chase and dined at his table and asked him primitive 
riddles and, generally speaking, rejuvenated him. They accom- 
panied him from palace to palace, from Les Toumelles in Paris 
to Fontainebleau, paradise of hunters ; or from the river-girt 
Chateau of Amboise to the proud little city of Blois. The fair 
and irresponsible ghosts of the Little Band still meet us on 
its palace staircase, the spiral, shell-like staircase which seems 
made to lead aerially from one golden pleasure to another. 

Every lady capable of charming the King's tired taste was 
of it. The Duchesse d'Estampes was the ruler of the rainbow- 
coloured troop and its members were bound to have her 
approval. No one was allowed to be squeamish and few had 
the inclination to be so. For the rest, a provision of high 
spirits and good stories, together with a hardy taste for 
exercise, was all that was required. The real significance of 
the Band was, however, beyond the King's control. It bore 
a leading part in Court intrigue, and was the faction of one 
of the two crafty queens who were trying to out-plot each other 
on the State chess-board. The Duchesse d'Estampes was 
not for long the only ruling force ; the Petite Bande soon 
became a fighting regiment, an opposition party to the rising 
planet — to Diane de Poitiers and her followers. 

For the curtain had already gone up and the first Act of the 
drama which was to occupy the reign had begun. Diane de 
Poitiers had taken possession of Henri II, and in 1536, three 
years after her marriage, Catherine found herself supplanted 
in the heart of her husband. The great world immediately 
divided into camps, one for the King and his Duchess, the other 
for the Prince and Diane. Father and son had never got on 
and now the position became strained. Everything depended 
on the relative power of the ladies. The Duchesse d'Estampes 
was the younger and enjoyed saying that she was bom on 
Diane's wedding-day. But Diane had the stronger mind and 
knew best how to use it. In place of the Petite Bande, she 
had the Guises as her allies and also the Connetable, Mont- 
morency. This was a grievance with Catherine, for he had at 
first been her staunch friend and she did not rest till, later, 
she got him back again. Roimd him and Diane, at this moment, 
gathered all the charmers who were not of the Petite Bande. 

37 



CATHERINE DE* MEDICI 

Nor was it long before the two hostile groups made a war-cry 
of religion. They began the fashion which afterwards did so 
much to ruin the Reformation in France. Without one religious 
thought, they made a party badge of the differing creeds and 
stifled the free growth of thought and of faith with intrigue. 
Diane led the Catholics, Madame d'Estampes the growing 
sect of the Huguenots. Thus, from the beginning, Catherine 
was identified with the Reforming party ; though the fact 
then had little importance, for it impelled her to no course of 
action. Her adherence to Madame d'Estampes was the only 
intimation that she gave of any enmity towards Diane, but 
that, too, brought about no direct results. For at this period 
of her life it was Catherine's pose to efface herself and pass 
unnoticed. " Her role was not to have one, unless it were to 
sue for the King's favour." And the nullity of her conduct while 
she was Dauphine, which looked like want of character at 
the time, was the strongest proof of her strong will. For 
deliberately biding her hour, she made herself like a sheet of 
blank paper to the world till the light should come that would 
reveal the writing below the surface. Meanwhile, she had to 
bear neglect, even at public festivals, as well as the frank con- 
tempt of the public for her childlessness. There was a time, 
some ten years after her marriage, when Francois, actually 
meditated her divorce from Henri. Catherine, now Dauphine, 
still remained without children and, at a great family council, 
Diane de Poitiers persuaded the King that a separation of 
the husband and wife was the only wise course. The rumour 
of the King's resolve reached her, and the meek little diplomat 
knew how to play her part. Her father-in-law could not bear 
to see tears, and she went to him weeping bitterly. She had, 
she said, heard of his intention ; she sacrificed herself for the 
good of France and would retire to a convent, or remain in 
his service, as he pleased. " Ma fille," said the King, " have 
no doubt, since God hath willed it, that you ought to be my 
daughter-in-law and the Dauphin's wife, and that I would not 
have it otherwise. Perad venture it will please Him to grant 
to you and to me the grace that we desire more than aught 
in the world." Catherine withdrew in triumph, Diane ior^ 
once was defeated, and her ally, the Constable, disgraced. 

Marguerite, the Queen of Navarre, wrote Catherine a letter 
of sympathy: "My brother," she says, "will never allow 
this repudiation, as evil tongues pretend. But God will give 
a royal line to Madame la Dauphine when she has reached the 

38 



-,;^^ 




V 



I 






Henri dk Valois (Henri II) in his youth. 

BY FRAK9OIS CLOUET. CHATEAU OE CHAKTII.LY. 

From a fhotograph by A. Giraudon. 



4 



THE YOUTH OF CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

age at which women of the House of the Medici are wont to 
have children. The King and I will rejoice with you then, 
in spite of these wretched backbiters." So strongly did 
Marguerite feel on this subject that when she spoke of it to 
her secretary, " this charitable princess could by no means 
keep the tears from her eyes for the fervent love that she bore 
in her heart." 

When at last^ in 1543, a year after the scheme for the 
divorce, a son was Bom to her, it was Diane de Poitiers, in 
her widow's dress of black and white, who received it into the 
world, prescribed for the mother and constituted herself her 
chief attendant. For all these ignominies, received with out- 
ward affability, Catherine kept,'as stands recorded, '^une plate 
fort saignante au coeur.^^ Those around her saw but a meek 
and rather spiritless young woman ; but to us, who know what 
followed, she rather appears like the panther lying low in the 
brushwood before it springs — passive only to hide its presence. 
Self-defence, at that moment, was her only possible policy. 
While the King lived she had at least a protector. But when 
he died, the case was different and no one was afraid to be her 
foe. Madame d'Estampes lost her power and Diane reigned 
unchecked. Catherine's lot was hardly to be envied when 
Henri II came to the throne. 

Before we regard him as King, it becomes necessary to glance 
at Henri of Orleans while he was still Dauphin, and to see 
what manner of man it was who made the centre of two women's 
lives. It is strange to observe how his wedding and his early 
married life seem almost to have gone on without him ; how 
his father, the old glamour still about him, played the chief 
part at the marriage festivities, and later that of protector 
to the Dauphine. But until the death of Franc^.ois, his son 
showed but little personality. Timid and taciturn by nature 
and afraid of his father, who did not care for him, he carefully 
hid himself except to Diane de Poitiers. And yet he made an 
impression upon the ambassadors at Court. " The serenissime 
Dauphin," writes Dandolo of Venice, " is twenty- three years 
old. He has a presence which is passing comely and he is 
rather tall than short, neither stout nor thin, but so well-knit 
that one would think he was all made of muscle. . . . Nathe- 
less he hath a nature which one cannot but call taciturn and 
sombre. Rarely doth he laugh or give sign of laughter, and 
those at Court assure me that they have not seen him laugh 
a single time." 

39 



CATHERINE DE^ MEDICI 

Five years afterwards, when he had turned twenty-eight, 
Cavalli takes up the tale : 

" He is of a robust constitution but of a melancholic humour 
and is well skilled in the use of arms. He is no beau-diseur 
in his repartees, but is most clear-cut and firm in his opinions. 
His intelligence is not of the readiest, and yet it is such men as 
he who often succeed best." Diane's work was beginning to 
bear fruit in this strange, slow-developing nature. 

It is easy to gather from these sketches that the man they 
draw was no nonentity. His very silence is refreshing in 
that age of brilliant babble, and we feel the force that dominated 
Catherine. What he would become, and she also, lay in the 
same hand. For one person moulded the destinies and shaped 
the characters of both — his by subjection, hers by resistance — 
and that person was the Grande Senechale of Rouen, Diane de 
Poitiers. 



40 



CHAPTER III 

Diane de Poitiers 



41 



AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 

Correspondance de Diane de Poitiers. 

Memoirs de Henri II — Archives Curieuses 

Lettres et poesies d' Henri II. 

Lettres de Catherine de' Medici. 

Relations de la Diplomatie Venitienne — Baschet. 

Lettres envoj'ees a la Reine-M6re — Archives Curieuses, 

Memoirs de Tavannes. 

Memoirs de Vielleville. 

Sur la Regne de Fran9ois II — RSgmer de la Planche. 

Catherine de Medicis — Bouchot. 

Les Moeurs Polies de la Cour de Henri II — Bourciez. 

Les femmes de la Renaissance — Maulde de la Claviire. 

Introduction to Correspondance de Diane de Poitiers — Guiffry. 



42 



CHAPTER III 

Diane de Poitiers 

DIANE DE POITIERS, Grande Senechale de Rouen, 
Duchesse de Valentinois, daughter of -M. de la Valliere, 
wife of Louis de Beze, was a typical woman of the French 
Renaissance, superb, practical, rich in vitality, a patroness of 
the arts, a dabbler in Plato, well versed in medicine, a busy 
leader of factions. Sumptuous she was, beyond belief, wdth 
a palace like a little city, a staff of servants like an army, and 
a poet for her Chief-Secretary. 

Legend has been as busy with Diane de Poitiers as with 
Catherine de' Medici — as busy in the opposite direction. If 
the one has figured as a sensational villain, the other has been 
a proverbial goddess — a type of beauty and romance. But 
Diane, even in her youth, was not beautiful. The authentic 
portraits and medals of her show her to be comely and repose- 
ful-looking, with a naturally brilliant complexion, renewed, 
Dian-like, by nothing less pure than cold water. These images 
are very different from those by which the world knows her i 
from Benvenuto Cellini's green bronze goddess, who with her 
quiver and her hounds once presided over Fontainebleau ; or 
Jean Goujon's Diana, cool and prone and deliciously elegant, 
in old days the guardian deity of Anet ; or, again, Primaticcio's 
fashionable Artemis, a painter-laureate's homage to a rising 
beauty. But these representations of Diane, long supposed to 
be portraits, were really no more than Court compliments, 
poetic variations on the name of the Greek goddess. And 
except for a general memory of the coiffure and the air of the 
great lady, they have little more to do with her likeness than 
had the crescent-crowned nymphs who emerged, spouting 
Latin poems, to greet Henri II from every pageant. The 
goddess of the chase was the vogue and, handled in a thousand 
ways, became the symbol of the favourite. 

Diane de Poitiers was seventeen years older than Henri II. 
Age is an important factor in human intercourse, and it is 

43 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

enlightening to find that when he first knew her, in 1536, he 
was barely twenty, she a widow of nearly thirty-seven, and 
that their relations with one another lasted for twenty-two 
years, until the day of his death. She had found him a morose 
and tongue-tied boy, she evoked the man of force and the 
monarch. In this she was unique — that, from first to last, 
she conducted the education of a King. Perhaps no woman, 
before or after, has formed a ruler as completely as she formed 
Henri, though had Louis XIV been younger when he first met 
Madame de Main tenon, that great lady would have vied with 
her. It might even be said that few women have more com- 
pletely formed any man or had a steadier hold upon him. 
Their alliance has become such a classic of historical scandal, 
is so fraught with gossip and political considerations, that its 
deep and enduring romance has been too much overlooked. 
And yet it should count as one of the rare things in biography — 
a passion that lasted ; rarer still among royal personages, who 
are more apt to deal in gallant episodes than in faithful love. 
Henri's fervent letters, the poems that he wrote her, are no 
mere vents for sentiment or collections of lyric conceits, but the 
sincere outpourings of a human heart — very different from the 
rhymes and love-letters of his father, Francois I. Later there 
were lapses in Henri's devotion, but they were brief and un- 
important, always followed by a speedy return to Diane. 
His feeling for her was strong enough to bear the natural 
transition from poetry into prose and their union was, in all 
ways, a happy marriage, save for the grimly pathetic figure 
of Catherine, who stood between them like the ghost of some 
past entanglement — anything but the lawful wife. As for the 
royal children, they were no bar to this strange domestic 
felicity, for Diane was ready to love them as if they were her 
own, and Anet was as much their home as Amboise. What 
then, we are forced to ask ourselves, was the secret of the 
power which this middle-aged woman exercised over a man 
young enough to be her son ? 

It was not beauty that attracted him, for we have seen that 
she was not beautiful, and her lover himself, in his most fervent 
moments, never pretended that she was so. 

Non la beaute — qui un leger courage 
- Peut emouvoir — tant que vous me peut plaire. 

So he writes to her in early days, in the full tide of his love ; 
and honnete (which in those days meant comely) is the 

44 



I 



DIANE DE POITIERS 



warmest epithet he finds for her face. It is curious to compare 
the writers of her own time, or immediately after, with one 
another and to discover how, with more or less evasion, they all 
agree about her. Brantome, the invaluable liar to whom every 
grand lady was a paragon, is the only one who mentions her 
beauty. " I saw Madame la Duchesse de Valentinois when 
she was seventy, as fair of countenance and as amiable as 
when she was thirty " — so he says ; but it was unfortunate 
for his veracity that she died at sixty-four. Other authors are 
more truthful, though they are discreet. " She came into 
the King's life," writes a Venetian, " when he was only Dau- 
phin. He has loved her dearly and loves her still .... old 
though she be. She has, it must be said, never used paint, 
yet (perhaps by virtue of the minute pains she takes) she is 
very far from appearing as old as she is." A French historian 
is less considerate. " It was a grievous thing," said he, " to 
see a young prince adore a faded face, covered with wrinkles, 
and a head fast turning grey, and eyes which had grown dim 
and were even sometimes red." And this rather unkind des- 
cription is borne out by some Latin verses written when she 
was thirty-eight, about eighteen months after her first meeting 
with Henri. Rugosa est fades, so they begin, not over- 
complimentarily ; nor, for all their elegance, do they spare 
either her white hair or her wrinkles. However many women, 
no more beautiful than she, have been so romantic by nature 
that they have woven a golden web around themselves, a 
web of glamour and of mystery. Here again legend has been 
at work on Diane, and here again legend is not justified. To 
tell the truth, Diane de Poitiers was the most matter-of-fact 
woman in the world — as practical as only a Frenchwoman 
can be and absorbed in concrete things. We need only read 
her letters, full of current affairs and household details and 
medical prescriptions and discussions of the hams of Mayence, 
to grasp how little sentiment or subtlety there was in her 
composition. 

The secret of her influence is, after all, no very remote one. 
She was the first to find out and to draw forth the latent powers 
in the Prince, powers that he himself did not as yet realize, 
though he suffered from all the discomfort of unexpressed and 
unemployed energies. Diane herself was forcible enough to 
see that his gloom was the gloom of a concentrated nature. 
He was inarticulate and she taught him speech ; awkward and 
morose from diffidence and she gave him self-confidence and 

45 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

success. Above all, he needed affection. His father, absorbed 
in his eldest son, had never liked the second. " I do not care 
for dreamy, sullen, sleepy children," so he once said of him. 
His mother, who might have found out what was in him, died 
while he was still a child. Diane de Poitiers was the first 
woman in his life, the first person to show him any tenderness, 
and passion leaped forth in response. While she was making 
a man of him, she was also making a poet. 

Plus ferme foi ne fut oncques jur^e 
A nouveau prince, oh ma seule princesse, 
Que mon amour, qui vous sera sans cesse 
Contre le temps et la mort assuree. 
De fosse creuse ou de tour bien muree 
N'a point besoin de ma foi la forteresse, 
Dont je vous fis dame, reine et maitresse. 
Pour ce qu'elle est d'eternelle duree. 

So he sang in one of his poems to her, tyrics few but fervent, all 
written in his own delicate hand, a significant fact in a day 
when princes used secretaries to write even intimate letters. 
His short notes to her, too, are full of concentrated feeling, as 
different as possible from the amorous conceits, the strained 
images, the scrolls and flourishes of language usual in the 
billets-doux of his time. In all he writes there is the sincerity, 
even the note of suffering, which belongs to real passion and 
which we do not remember in any contemporary love-letters. 
" Natheless," he writes to her from camp, " I entreat thee to 
keep in thy remembrance him who has only known one God 
and one friend, and to rest assured that thou shalt never feel 
ashamed of giving me the name of thy Servant. Let this 
be my name for ever." " Madame m^amye " — (runs another) 
" I thank thee humbly for taking the trouble to send me news 
of thee, which is the thing on earth that best please th me. . . . 
I cannot live without thee, and if thou didst but know the 
dearth of all enjoyment from which I suffer here, thou wouldst 
pity me." When he has been two days away, he " cannot live 
without her " ; when she is indisposed, he offers to leave all 
business and come to her side, on the chance of doing her 
service. Sometimes Diane sends him a pious present and he 
hastens to thank her.- " I received thy letters yesterday and 
also the chemises of Our Lady of Chartres. They could not 
have come at a better time, for I intend setting off the day 
after to-morrow, and about the middle of August I hope to reach 
Montdidier, and to put mysel into such condition. . . that 

46 



DIANE DE POITIERS 

I shall be worthy to wear the scarf that thou hast sent me. . . 
Remember him who has never loved, who will never love, any 
one but thee. I implore thee also, m^amye, to deign to wear 
this ring for the love of me." This note, like all the others, 
is signed with their intimate cypher, two D's back to back 
which formed an H in the centre and were bound together by a 
loop called le lac d' amour — the monogram that sowed itself 
through France, on the walls of the Louvre, on -palace and on 
chapel, on prayer-book and on choir-stall, as if it were the 
monogram of the Queen and King of the land. 

And so in truth it was, for though Diane made a poet of the 
Dauphin, it was by the way. She was much more intent on 
making a king ; and if one source of her power lay in his need 
of affection, another, as potent, lay in his need for a Mentor. 
" To the miserable Grande Senechale " (writes a hostile chroni- 
cler of the day, a ^secretary of Marguerite of Angouleme) 
" the King was introduced, on the advice of favourites, as to a 
jewelled ring that might possibly take his fancy, and a peda- 
gogue from whom he might learn much virtue." She taught 
him how to reign. His father did not take the trouble to 
train his son. " In his lifetime he never knocked him into 
shape, nor did he even summon him to his Privy Council, so 
that the Prince came to the throne devoid, one may say, of any 
notion how to govern." With a woman's insight, Diane 
understood her material ; with an administrator's skill, she 
made the best of it. His heaviness was converted into dignity, 
his slowness into prudent policy. Diane was, it has been 
said, a typical Frenchwoman. No land but France has pro- 
duced this race of the graceful maitresse-femme, the brilliant 
State-housekeeper, making many ends meet while she seems 
to be simply amusing ; kind and cruel, honest and ambitious, 
as lucid as a mathematician, as enigmatic as a woman. In 
after times, Madame de Maintenon was, as it were, the re- 
incarnation of Diane de Poitiers. There is a likeness in the 
good and the bad points, in the very circumstances, of these 
two magnificent tutoresses. Both were widows in the grand 
style, both eminently respectable, both boundlessly ambitious, 
yet capable of disinterested scheming for the honour of their 
respective sovereigns ; both matter-of-fact, with a genius for 
educating children ; both making their names synonymous with 
the anti-Protestant party — though Diane did this on merely 
political grounds, while Madame de Maintenon was sincerely 
ecclesiastical. Both, too, grew so invaluable to their pupils 

47 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

that Madame de Maintenon sat in Louis XIV's Privy Council 
and Henri II took no decision without first holding a tete-d'tite 
Parliament with Diane de Poitiers. To say the truth, we 
confess that we prefer Madame de Breze to Madame Scarron, 
for, whether owing to her time or to her temperament, there 
was something more of bonhomie, something warmer and 
more generous in her atmosphere than in that of the later 
and more scholastic Egeria. It is pleasurable to think of 
Diane, robed in her black and white satin, discussing the last 
Platonic book with an elegant philosopher in pearl-sown 
doublet, as together they pace the broad terraces and galleries 
of Anet — the little volume in her hand, fresh from Italy, 
sumptuously bound in brown and gold ; more pleasurable than 
to conjure up Madame de Maintenon in her famous femlle" 
morte dress, dissecting the newest treatise on theology with a 
black-stoled, black-capped priest, or writing her finished letters 
of advice (far subtler than anything of Diane's) which, master- 
pieces though they be, leave us chilly and dissatisfied. But 
each was suited to her own monarch and left an indelible 
mark upon his career. 

Diane's contemporaries were not slow to recognize her 
effect on him. " The person whom, without a doubt, the 
King loves above all others, is Madame de Valentinois," writes 
one of them (five years after Henri's accession) — " She is 
a woman of fifty-two. ... a woman of intelligence who has 
always been the inspirer of the King. She even helped him 
with her purse when he was Dauphin. . . . She is au courant 
of everything, and day by day, as a rule, the King goes to find 
her after dinner, and stays an hour and a half talking with her, 
and he tells her everything that happens." The unfledged 
Dauphin, with his passion for hunting and the exercise of 
arms, began to study art and literature, even grew to like 
them for her sake. But Diane had too much of a woman's 
genius to woo him thus educationally to her service without 
consulting his tastes. She made Anet and its forests into a 
huntsman's Eden. There was an incomparable heronry 
there ; rare birds and strange beasts, falcons and leopards were 
kept in the gallery that she built for them ; its walls were 
sculptured with emblems of the chase ; her own name was 
deftly made use of to enhance the general sense of sport. At 
every corner she reminded the King that she was goddess of his 
favourite pursuit no less than of his heart, and the imaginary 
statue of her as Diana guarded the approaches of her palace. 

48 




Diane de Poitiers. 

PORTRAIT IN' EN'AMF.I. BY I.EOXARI) LIMOUSIN. COLLECTION SOLTIKOI'K 

l-'rpiit a f>hotog7-apk by A. Giraudon. 



M: 



^ 



DIANE DE POITIERS 

It was not for nothing that she was his elder ; she knew full 
well that passion is not long-lived and that a wise woman 
herself provides her lover with pleasures independent of her 
presence. 

It is difficult to define Diane's attitude towards Henri. She 
was not passionate, or even emotional ; her feeling for him was 
that of the artist for his work, of the statesman for his cher- 
ished idea, of the successful teacher for his disciple — with the 
added excitement that the teacher was a woman and the 
disciple a man and a king. The glamour of his royalty, of the 
vistas it opened before her, of the reflected splendour cast 
upon her by his prestige, entered into her feeling for him. 
Her manner to him was evidently ceremonious, for in one of 
his lyrics he entreats as a rare favour that he may be allowed 
to kiss her face ; but in this she was like other Frenchwomen of 
the day with whom etiquette had become a religion. Now 
and again she worked herself into some response to his out- 
bursts, and perhaps nothing measures the depths of her matter- 
of-factness so much as these more melting moments of hers. 
Henri is about to part from her for a space. 

Et je lui dis encore davantage 
Que la supplie de bien se souvenir 
Que n'ai joie jusqu'au revenir — 

he exclaims in farewell. Diane, for once, tries her hand at 
answering in kind : 



t 



Adieu delices de mon coeur, 

Adieu mon maJtre et mon seigneur, 

Adieu vrai estoc de noblesse ! 

Adieu plusieurs royaux banquets. 
Adieu epicurieux mets, 
Adieu magnifiques festins ! 



The Muse broke down quickly and the natural sybarite asserted 
herself. If the love for plusieurs royaux banquets is not 
poetic, it is at least sincere, and this is a distinction in an age 
when every cultivated lady wrote reams of erudite doggerel 
and believed her many admirers when they told her she was a 
Sappho. 

Sincere Diane was. She had the qualities of her faults — the 
staunch fidelity, the cult of habit, the reliable good sense of a 
rather cold-blooded nature. She was always a motherly wife 
rather than a mistress, and no doubt this suited the King. 
Her indulgent wisdom, her calm, her coolness as of water 

49 E 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

from the spring, refreshed his fastidious taste as no more 
exacting woman could have done. It was by such means that 
she gained her absohite power. '* This lady," (exclaims 
Henri's chronicler) " got complete possession of his will, and 
every one, even the Queen, was wont to call her ' Madame.* " 
With the world outside the Court she quickly grew un- 
popular. ''^ Sire, si vous laissez comme Diane faif par trop 
vous gouverner, Sire, vous n'etes plus que cire,^"^ wrote a daring 
punster of the day. The crown- jewels went to her — were 
flaunted in the Queen's presence ; her head, instead of Cather- 
ine's, was struck with that of the King on almost every medal 
from the mint ; she was painted in enamel riding in a crupper 
behind him, and gradually every benefice, every important 
appointment, civic or ecclesiastical, was transferred to the 
firm keeping of those white, grasping hands ofjhers. '''Dans 
cette cour, les femmes faisaient tout, meme les generaux et capi- 
tainesy'' grumbled the surly old soldier Tavannes. The poets 
were rather more polite. 

Que voulez-vous Diane bonne "^ 

Que vous donne ? ^ 
Vous n'eutes comme j' entends 

Jamais tant d'heur au printemps 
Qu' en automne. 

So sang, not without maUce, the gay Protestant poet, Clement 
Marot, and indeed it seemed as if fortune had withheld no gift 
from the Grande Senechale. Her despotism at all events 
justified the insight of Fran9ois I. "Do not be subject to the 
will of others as I have been subject to the will of one other," 
he said to his son on his deathbed, little understanding the 
depth of that son's sensibility. There is an old tradition 
that Frangois, in despair at Henri's want of deportment, 
himself chose Diane to be the Prince's mistress, imagining that 
love for such a woman would be his best education. There 
would have been nothing very strange in this. It was the 
fashion for parents formally to arrange connections such as 
this between a young man and a woman of the world, who 
was ready to train him and whose serviteur he became — 
connections which, according to circumstances, were more or 
less Platonic. But in this case the tradition seems mere 
legend. Henri's own letters to Diane disprove it. " Since 
in times past " (he writes) " I was not afraid to lose the favour 
of the late King by remaining with you, I should hardly com- 
^ Que je vous donne ? 
50 



DIANE DE POITIERS 

plain of any trouble that I may have now in doing you the 
slightest service." The King could hardly have been dis- 
pleased at^ the progress of this attachment, if he himself had 
initiated it. 

It is unfortunate that this phrase in Henri's letter does not 
as definitely refute another tradition about Diane which seems 
to be equally fallacious. This is the ugly story that she had 
been the mistress of Francois I before she became the mistress 
of his son — a legend which was made the most of by Michelet, 
that most lurid of historians, and to which some romantic 
writers still prefer to chng. It should have been enough 
for them that years ago, before the modern high-tide 
of documentary research, Sainte-Beuve, the Pope of criticism, 
rejected this report by the light of his own good sense. But 
since his day M. Guiffry, the editor of Diane's correspondence, 
the expert authority upon her, has so stated her case that no 
fair mind will doubt her innocence. Without recapitulating 
his admirable essay, it may perhaps be advisable to sum up 
the gist of his evidence against the long-lived scandal, and 
also to recount the cause of the scandal itself. 

In the plot which the great Connetable de Bourbon wove 
against Francois I many people were implicated, and amongst 
them Diane's father, M. de Saint-Vallier. The Connetable es- 
caped but, Saint-Vallier was taken. It is alleged that Diane 
pleaded with' the King for his life, that her request was granted 
at the expense of her honour, that her father was finally re- 
prieved when already standing on the scaffold. This was in 1524. 
Diane had been happily wedded for eight years to the Senechal 
of Normandy, Louis de Breze, and had given him two daughters. 
It was he who, in ignorance of his father-in-law's complicity, 
had been the means of revealing the conspiracy to Fran9ois. 
What more natural than that he should bestir himself for the 
relation he had unwittingly betrayed ; that his wife, who was 
waiting-woman to the Queen, with easy access to the King, 
should have gone to Francois to entreat for her father's pardon ? 
That the reprieve was granted at the last moment and that this 
was rather an exceptional act of mercy, are the facts which are 
nearest testimony against her. For the rest, the whole affair 
is grounded on a single sentence in the contemporary Journal 
d'un Bourgeois de Paris : " And it was rumoured that the 
aforesaid Seigneur de Saint-Vallier, during the King's absence, 
had threatened to kill him for dishonouring a young girl — and 
in truth, if it had not been for his son-in-law, the Grand-Senechal 

51 



CATHERINE DE» MEDICI 

of Normandy, he would have been beheaded." But Diane at 
twenty-three, a great lady, long a wife and mother, could 
hardly have been called a " young girl " ; nor does the stern 
dignified character of her husband, who never changed in his 
respect for her, make the episode more probable. It was not 
till forty years later, when she had innumerable enemies, that 
the accusation was brought up again, and then it was her chief 
foe, the Protestant historian, Regnier de la Planche, and the 
arch-gossip Bran tome, who converted the Bourgeois' tale of a 
father's vengeance into the current and widely different 
version.^ It is noteworthy also that two reliable historians 
writing at the time of the event (one of them a follower of 
Marguerite of Angouleme) ascribe Diane's success with the 
King to nothing more remote than her filial prayers and tears ; 
that, contrary to the general belief, a whole month elapsed 
between Saint- Vallier's condemnation and his sensational 
reprieve on the scaffold ; and last, but almost first, that Fran9ois, 
at that date, was in the heyday of his love for Madame 
d' Estampes and that neither woman would have brooked a 
rival. There is nothing in Diane's hfe — and this is an essential 
matter — to justify this charge against her. She always led 
the existence of a faithful wife, whether a legitimate or an 
illegitimate one, and the malicious gossip inseparable from a 
King's favourite, including the absurd report of her liaison 
with Marot, was so evidently groundless that it was never 
really believed. Henri himself swerved twice from his vows to 
her, but these aberrations were of the briefest and had nothing 
to do with his heart, which remained absolutely true. 

It has seemed necessary to dwell thus long on this much 
disputed question, because upon its upshot depends our whole 
estimate of Diane de Poitiers and her significance in history. 
Had she been a light woman she would have lost half of her 
interest. And it is a remarkable fact that Henri should have 
always been supported by two such wives of stainless loyalty 
— who have notwithstanding gone down to posterity as types 
of immorality. 

II. 

Such were the three figures that confronted one another 
when the reign of Henri II opened. 

The King, impressive in appearance, the only tall man of 

^ Contarini mentions the rumour as a fact in 1552, but he only 
ascribes the connection to the time when Diane was a widow — a report 
too vague to be attended to. 

52 



DIANE DE POITIERS 

his family, learning as it were to speak and, when he did speak, 
speaking well — strong of mind, strong of feeling, given to deep 
depression, the very man to need a grande passion that would 
take him out of himself. Diane, the real, the uncrowned 
queen, superb, a little arrogant, a little cold, an able Prime- 
minister, an agreeable talker on art and letters, securely 
throned amid a throng of architects, poetasters, drawing- 
room metaphysicians, almoners and secretaries, all dependent 
on her largesse ; Catherine, the crowned, the unreal queen, 
suave, indifferent, self-contained, sober, even religious since 
her father-in-law's death — a reservoir of hidden forces, of 
wounded dignity, and of wounded affection working deep 
below the surface — distributing alms with generosity, careful 
to employ all the artists and men of letters who had a grudge 
against Diane, careless as it seemed of power, yet hoarding 
every scrap she could lay hands on. Here is good material, 
straight to the hand of the great dramatist who shapes history. 

It is impossible to understand this strange three-cornered 
household without some comprehension of the atmosphere 
that surrounded it. Outwardly there was nothing conspicuous 
in these arrangements ; their significance only lay in what went 
on unseen by the world. Italian fashions were in vogue 
amongst cultivated people, and neo-Platonism, the philosophy 
adapted to the foibles of its professors, had spread from Rome 
outwards. When Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola 
religiously revived the study of Plato and tried to wed it with 
Christianity, they little foresaw to what uses later fashionable 
circles would put their fervent studies. Men and women, 
especially women, too weak to be wholly good, too good to 
like the knowledge that they are weak, are ingenious in finding 
shrines to shelter and consecrate their frailties, their love of 
excitement and novelty, their insurmountable fickleness. 
Perhaps it is a compliment to human nature that they wish to 
idealize their failings. Platonism asserted the unworthiness 
of the body, the unimportance of the marriage-bond, the all- 
importance of the soul. " Take care," says one of the Plat- 
onists, " not to pollute thyself in the matter of love. . . 
drawing thy soul away from its fair intellectual ideal to drown 
it in the ocean of the flesh — of base and misformed matter. 
For Absolute Beauty is our father and Primal Beauty is our 
Mother, and immense Wisdom is the land from whence we first 
came." 

The creed of the aesthete and the creed of the ascetic — of 

53 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

the man of fastidious taste and the renouncer of self — though 
opposed in nature, are perilously alike in their outcome, 
in a scornful rejection of common life. From these cloudy 
ethics came cloudy results. The marriage-bond, usually 
formed for reasons of convenience, did not count except as ^ 
dull obstacle to a spiritual existence ; while the friend-elect\ 
chosen for his affinity of soul, counted as everything — as the\ 
embodiment of all that was noble, all that should be striven 
for. It was even considered bad taste for a husband and wife' 
to love each other much. Hence many vagaries, some really 
immoral, some only seeming to be so. It was not the only time 
that this kind of casuistry obtained. Before Platonism there 
was chivalry ; after it, there came eighteenth century sensi- 
bility, the return to Nature, a score of different subterfuges. 
But this pseudo-Platonism was peculiarly suited to Italy, 
to the imaginative, impressionable, irreligious people, who hav- 
ing no real faith of their own, were prone to become enamoured 
of any new-fangled ideal. In practical France, however, the 
land of scepticism, of gay common-sense, such a high-flown 
creed as that of Platonism never took real root. The esprit 
gaulois preferred Rabelaisian laughter and frank immorality. 
It demanded lighter galanteries that were less of a strain upon 
sentiment. So it came about that the Platonists were only 
temporarily in vogue, nor did their fantastic tenets spread 
beyond high circles. Aristocratic society professed an enthus- 
iasm for Italy and for all things Italian, and it was Marguerite 
d'Angouleme, herself a serious student, who first introduced 
the study of Plato to the Court. When in her poem she raised 
a temple to God and built up its pillars with books, she made 
the main shaft out of Plato's works, with the Gospel immedi- 
ately above them. About her there was nothing of the 
corrupt Platonist and she might have been a disciple of Pico- 
della Mirandola. Yet her Heptameron is full of the new 
sentimental Platonism and it caused her to tolerate ideas 
and facts of which her acceptance would otherwise bewilder us. 
But it must not be forgotten that with all its errors, this new 
Platonism, like chivalry, had a civilizing influence. It 
denounced coarseness ; it refined the manners of men and gave 
new possibilities to their intercourse with women. These were 
valuable results, especially in the French Court where the tone 
was habitually gross, and Marguerite knew how to appre- 
ciate them — and the small group of French Platonic scholars 
looked upon her as their centre. Two among their number 

54 



I 



DIANE DE POITIERS 



ttained to fame that has survived them. There was Bona- 
venture des Periers, who dedicated his translation of Plato's 
" Lysis " to her, and the famous Ramus who wrote that Plato's 
Dialogues were, " Salvation — the haven dimly seen from 
afar." This profounder phase of Platonism was not, however, 
natural to princesses and did not find another student like 
Marguerite ; but when she died, Diane de Poitiers took her 
place as the leader of Renaissance fashions and the lover of 
Platonic sentiment. Two volumes of the '' Amadis de Gaul,'' 
the favourite romance of the day, were dedicated to her and, 
like others of their kind, were stuffed full of these emotional 
theories. She cultivated them as assiduously at Anet as she 
cultivated rare shrubs, and, though transplanted from their 
native soil, they flourished under her care. 

In this same novel, " Amadis,'' there is a strangely prophetic 
passage. Zahara, Queen of the Amazons, is bent on making 
a certain king love her, and though he is already married to a 
Princess of Trebizond, Zahara succeeds. " If only the king's 
head is as good as his heart," she says, " I should in time so 
win him that the queen and I should share him — she as his 
wife, and I as his friend." It was such notions as these, 
shocking to no one, that first made the attachment between 
Diane and Henri possible. Catherine figured as the usual 
representative of the unreal marriage-tie, Diane embodied 
the true, the higher love, and it was only the extent to which 
this conception was carried, and the remarkable power that 
Diane acquired over Catherine's destiny, that distinguished 
this regal trio from others less elevated in rank. 

It remains to be explained why Henri II, wedded to a young, 
attractive and quick-witted wife, should have left her for another 
woman only three years after their marriage, and exposed 
her to the obloquy implied by desertion and neglect. The two 
women, alike in their signal common-sense, were unlike in all 
else. And there was one difference more vital than the rest. 
Diane was frank and direct, almost blunt, Catherine was tor- 
tuous and cunning. The Frenchwoman pursued the obvious ; 
the Florentine preferred mystery. This crooked quality was 
probably one of the causes that estranged her husband from 
the first. He liked straight roads and was, in most ways, 
a simple soul, with a conscience. Nothing gives a stronger 
impression of this than his conduct at his coronation. The 
account of it comes from Dandolo, the Venetian envoy, but 
the original source of his knowledge was Diane herself. 

55 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

" Madame la Senechale told her lady-in-waiting (who repeated 
it to me), that she had observed in what deep devoutness the 
King knelt absorbed at the moment of receiving the Crown, 
and she had asked him afterwards to tell her for whom it was 
that he had prayed so fervently to God. The King answered 
that he had prayed to no other end than this : that if the 
Crown he was about to accept meant good government and 
the welfare of his people, God would leave it to him for a long 
while ; but if not, that God would quickly take it from him." 
This prayer, naif from a king, surely came from a nature 
far removed from Medician craft. Had Diane, when she 
questioned him, a woman's conviction that the King's earnest 
prayers were for her ? If so, she was dealing with one too 
sincere to tell her anything but the truth. 

Catherine, at all events, could never have imagined that she 
was the object of his orisons. At his coronation, as on other 
occasions, she was completely in the background, and when 
the crown proved too heavy for her head, it was laid down at 
the feet of Diane who stood by her side. She was effaced 
in much the same fashion at the famous triumphal entry into 
Lyons on Henri's accession, and this though a colony of Floren- 
tine merchants lived there and might well have been expected 
to make much of her. True, the Queen's litter had precedence, 
but the pageants were all for Diane. It was to her that 
Dian's nymphs, dressed in black and white (her colours), 
tripped, forth from costly artificial forests and recited endless 
Latin compliments ; to her that they led rare hounds and 
leopards in golden leashes. Catherine sat there in state, but 
no poems were repeated in her honour and the sign of the 
Crescent prevailed in the decorations of the city. 

The attitude of these two women to one another is among 
the problems of biography. For while the Queen hated her 
rival she was dependent on her for any position she possessed, 
as well as for countless services : " bons et agr cables 
services,^^ as Henri was pleased to define them. Never was a 
usurper's friendship so forced upon the deposed person, never 
was open enmity conducted with such impeccable amenity. 
" The Queen is continually with the Duchess, who, on her side, 
does her excellent service in gaining her the King's good 
opinion." So writes a matter-of-fact contemporary. It was 
owing to the Duchess, he adds, that the King went back to 
Catherine from whom since his meeting with Diane he had 
long lived away. This must have been more bitter to the Queen 

56 



DIANE DE POITIERS 

than her husband's desertion, and when at last her children 
were born, it was Diane who received them into the world 
and prescribed for their welfare — Diane who chose their nurses 
and their medicines. There exists a strange picture in which 
an attendant is proffering a new-born princeling to the Duchesse 
de Valentinois as if to beg her for her patronage, while in the 
background, almost effaced, is the figure of the Queen. Nor 
was it long since this same Diane had made mock of Catherine's 
childlessness to the King, with the intention of getting her 
gibes repeated to her victim. For the rest, Catherine heard 
many things. Listening chambers made between two ceilings 
were not unknown in those days of intrigue. But Catherine 
was more inventive. Diane's apartments were below^ her own 
and she pierced a hole in her ceiling that she might at all times 
watch and overhear what went on underneath her — a terrible 
form of self-torture for this jealous Stoic, who could get no 
vengeance for her wrongs, yet insisted on knowing their full 
extent. To the outward world, however, her behaviour was 
always dignified and it was only to her intimate friends that 
she confided her sorrows. " Madame de Valentinois," writes 
Diane's never-failing enemy, Tavannes, " kept the Queen out 
of her husband's affairs and — sith that she was not beautiful — 
this was not without suspicion of using witchcraft. The Queen 
complained to the Sieur de Tavannes, who offered to cut off 
the nose of Madame de Valentinois. Her Majesty objected to 
the infliction of such a loss ; he answered that, in truth, it 
would prove a pleasure to her, for that it meant the extinc- 
tion of vice, and of the King's and the nation's great trouble. 
The Queen thanked him and made up her mind to patience." 
Her patience, even in public, was often tried sorely enough, 
for Diane never scrupled to exhibit her power and to act the 
triumphant wife. There was one occasion, that of the birth 
of Charles IX, when she lured Henri to Anet three days 
after his son's birth, an unparalleled proceeding in the annals 
of royal etiquette. And it must have been still more galling 
for his wife when his mistress praised his conduct as a husband. 
" I must tell you," she wrote to Brissac, " that the Queen 
has been very ill, but thank God she is much better now ! 
And I can assure you that the King has played the good 
husband capitally, for he did not desert her for a moment." 
Perhaps it was as much silenced anger as silenced love that 
made Catherine go on behaving as if the King cared for her. 
** She follows him as much as she can, without a thought of 

57 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

fatigue," (writes Soranzo) *'and when he goes to the wars, she 
and her ladies wear mourning." She went so far as to invent 
a monogram of her initial and the King's which should as 
closely as possible resemble Diane's chosen cipher. But she 
could not deceive the world. The crescent — the growing 
moon — was no bad symbol for Diane, who, now allied to the 
Guises, grew insolent in her omnipotence. She did not scruple 
to meddle with Catherine's religion, which she suspected of a 
Protestant taint. The Queen's confessor was sent about his 
business and an orthodox theologian put in his place. " Did 
she not force a doctor of the Sorbonne upon you, to corrupt 
your conscience, and did she not afterwards thrust him upon 
the King ? " So, with righteous indignation, wrote one of 
Catherine's Huguenot correspondents. It was a diplomatic 
feat on Diane's part to take hold of Catherine by her weak 
side, politically speaking — her leaning towards the Refor- 
mers—and to present her in this light to the Court and 
the King, whose own tendencies that way had been short- 
lived. 

Nothing stayed the favourite's hand. Perhaps her power 
reached its zenith when Henri departed to wage war against 
the Emperor on the German frontier and she so manoeuvred 
that, in spite of all precedent, the full Regency was not given 
to the Queen. The Chancellor, Bertrandi, was appointed as 
her colleague and Catherine's authority was thus annulled. 
The motive of this deliberate insult was not far to seek. 
Catherine, now an experienced woman of thirty-six, would 
play her part admirably as sole Regent, would gain prestige 
with the people, probably with the King, and might endanger 
Diane's absolute monarchy. Nor was such a chance of a 
covert affront to the Queen an occasion to be neglected. That 
lady behaved admirably. A courtier wrote to the Constable 
that when her " Brevet " was read out, she only smiled and 
said that however ample the King might have made it, she 
would have used it soberly. She compared it with the full 
power which Francois I had given to his mother, Louise de 
Savoie, but she would not, she added, ask for any redress. 
Only she was determined not to publish the *' Brevet'^ " lest 
it should lower her reputation with the populace." 

But even Catherine occasionally lost self-control and there 
were dramatic moments between husband and wife. "At 
the opening of the reign," writes Contarini, " the Queen could 
not endure this love of the King for the Duchess. But later, 

58 



DIANE DE pOITIERS 

hy reason of the urgent prayers of the King,^ she resigned herself, 
and now she bears it with patience." Her endurance turned 
to gall in her heart. In all her correspondence during her rival's 
lifetime there is only one mention of Diane's name and that is 
made during the single brief moment of triumph that she en- 
joyed over her. The Constable, jealous of Diane's power, had 
been plotting against her and had fanned up a flickering flame 
in Henri's breast for a Scotswoman, Lady Fleming, the beauti- 
ful governess of little Mary Stuart. The affair ended quickly 
and Henri returned to the side of Diane ; but there was a 
scandal and Lady Fleming had to leave the Court. " The 
Countess," writes Catherine to Mary Stuart's mother, " took 
leave of me the day before yesterday, but all the same, she spent 
the night in this town without showing herself either to Madame 
de Valentinois or to me." It is easy to understand why in 
this contest Catherine felt no reluctance to inscribe the hated 
name. After Henri's death she does not make any reference 
to her husband's abandonment of her, excepting in two cases 
and those singularly interesting ones. They are among the 
rare fragments of autobiography which dropped from her 
austere pen and were written when she was an old woman and 
could afford to look back. Nor are they written without 
purpose ; for the one occurs in a letter that she sent to her 
son-in-law, the King of Navarre, to reprove him for infidelity 
to his wife, and the other draws a parallel for her daughter's 
use between their respective marriages. 

" My son " (runs the first), " I was never in my life so 
dumfounded as when I heard the words which Frontenac has 
been reporting everywhere as being those which you ordered 
him to convey to your wife. I should never have believed 
that this was true, had he not himself assured me that it was 
so. . . . You are not, I know, the first husband who is young 
and not too wise in such matters, but I believe that you are 
the first, and the only one, who after such events would 
venture on such language to his wife. I had the honour of 
marrying the King, my lord and your sovereign, whose 
daughter you have married, but the thing which vexed him 
most in the world was after he found out that I knew 
about such doings ; and when Lady Fleming misbehaved her- 
self with him, he was^much pleased when she wasi sent away 
and he never showed me any temper about it, nor spoke one 
angry word on the matter. As for Madame de Valentinois, she, 
^ The italics axe those of the present writer. 
59 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

like Madame d'Estampes, conducted all things honourably ; but 
when it came to those who made a noise and scandal, he would 
have been very angry had I kept them anywhere near me." 

There is more frankness in her second mention of Diane, 
made in a despatch to Belie vre, at that moment her agent in 
Spain. 

" Let her not quote me as a precedent," says she, referring 
to Queen Margot of Navarre — " For if I made good cheer for 
Madame de Valentinois, it was the King that I was really 
entertaining, and besides I always let him know that I was 
acting sorely against the grain ; for never did woman who loved 
her husband succeed in loving his mistress. One must call a 
spade a spade, though the term is an ugly one on the lips of 
nous autres.^^ 

Who that reads these words can help wondering whether, 
as she wrote them, the wound in this strange woman's heart 
re-opened ? 

We know at least that she never brought herself to go to 
Anet. Once, during her widowhood, she promised that on her 
way to Rouen she would visit the retired Diane there, but at 
the last moment her resolution gave way and she turned 
aside. There is little wonder that she did so. For Anet had 
been a bewitched place for Henri — the citadel of Diane's 
charms. It was there that he ever loved to linger, to receive 
his friends and to despatch business. Thither came the am- 
bassadors — William Pickering, the Englishman among them*- 
to be sumptuously entertained by a generous host and hostess ; 
here, too, the little princes and princesses ran about in the sun- 
shine, playing at ball or at quoits on the stately terraces or 
on the margin of the lake. So like husband and wife did these 
two become that Henri permitted himself to indulge in sulky 
moods, and if anything went wrong with the children while 
they were under her care, he sometimes would not speak to 
her for two or three days together. But Diane's temper was 
impeccable ; she sat at her splendid writing-table penning his 
letters, thanking his friends, outwitting his foes, like the faith- 
ful consort that she was. Nor did she neglect more obvious 
means of keeping his love fresh. The idealized portraits, the 
complimentary statues of herself that she was constantly 
ordering, her choice dresses and harmonious surroundings, 
were all so many means to preserve his first enchantment. Her 
palatial hearth was his home and there he always found 
happiness — while Catherine sat sohtary at Amboise. 

60 



DIANE DE POITIERS 

III. 

Diane de Poitiers became the one avenue of approach to 
the King, and even the Powers of Europe were forced to acknow- 
ledge her. Charles V, when he received the French Ambas- 
sador at Brussels, pending negotiations for the Peace of 1556. 
asked only after her and the Constable without a word of the 
Queen. " He also mentioned Madame de Valentinois, but no 
one else, for he knew that in these two (in her and in the Con- 
stable) lay all authority and favour.'* No one so powerful 
as Diane could escape being well hated, and she did not make 
herself more popular by her close alliance with the detested 
Guises — the Duke Francois, the Cardinal Charles de Lorraine 
and their less known brother, the Cardinal de Guise — " those 
firebrands of mischief," as she and they together were called. 
The marriage of her daughter to the Due d'Aumale, the son 
of Fran9ois de Guise, strengthened the tie that bound her to 
them. This arrogant family, oppressing the poor, sowing dis- 
cord among the rich, daily increasing in power, were a serious 
peril to the nation. They made Diane omnipotent in intrigue 
against Catherine and fanned the worst passions of the Roman 
Catholic party. With this party Madame de Valentinois identi- 
fied herself, both from policy and from habit, and hence her 
worst detractors are to be found among the Protestants. 
" The more children they had, the more the King neglected 
the Queen," so writes one of them, ..." and so God, in His 
wrath, allowed the poor prince — intoxicated by that baggage, 
Diane — to admit a young serpent into his house — the Cardinal 
of Lorraine." This " serpent " the chronicler continues, 
talked ill of the psalms with the Senechale, " banqueting on 
the verses of Horace " and kindling the King's love by " ces 
beaux poHes du diable.^^ " For when he (the Cardinal) saw 
that the aforesaid Grande S6n6chale had got a French Bible, 
in imitation of the Queen — with a great sign of the Cross and 
his hand on his heart and the deep sighs of a hypocrite — he 
set about decrying it and damning it and showing her how 
wrong it was to read it ; that such reading was not seemly for 
women ; that she had better hear Mass twice instead of once 
and rest contented with her Paternosters. . . . Whereupon 
this poor old sinner (pauvre vieille pecheresse) persuaded the 
King to believe all that he had said. . . 

Regnier de la Planche, the Huguenot historian, and others 
of his kind, tell the same story, and it is largely owing to them 
that Diane's true image has been falsified. Meanwhile, she had 

61 



CATHERINE DE* MEDICI 

enemies enough in her immediate circle without more from 
the outside. For though she had attached the Guises, she 
soon estranged the Constable — and this was at her peril, for 
the Constable was almost as omnipotent as herself. It was 
evident that two such powers could not remain side by side. 
They first came to blows over the King, for the Constable, 
anxious to rule unchecked, made use of Henri's love of sport to 
distract his attention from the State. Diane, as we know, 
exerted her influence in the opposite direction and Diane won 
the day. While she was thus occupied, the smouldering embers 
leaped into flame and her difference with the Constable assumed 
a definite form. The indefatigable Contarini recounts the 
quarrel at some length : 

" There was one moment when we courtiers asked ourselves 
which of the twain the King loved best — the Constable or 
Madame de Valentinois, but now we all know by a great many 
signs that Madame de Valentinois is the best beloved. ... I 
say this because to his Majesty's great displeasure, these two 
persons, the Constable and Madame, are sworn enemies. This 
hostility . . . only broke forth openly last year when Madame 
the Duchess perceived that the Constable had plotted to turn 
the King away from the passion he had for her by making him 
in love with the governess of the little Queen of Scotland, a 
very pretty little woman. . . . Madame complained of this 
bitterly, the King had to make humble apologies, and for a 
long time the Constable and Madame were not even on speaking 
terms. At last, at his Majesty's entreaty, they patched up the 
semblance of a peace, but at bottom their hatred is as deep as 
ever. Hence have grown the two parties which are like two 
factions at Court ; and as the Constable is not too much beloved 
there, nearly all the great folk gather under the flag of Madame, 
and among them the House of Guise, no less because M. d' Au- 
male is Madame' s son-in-law than because the Cardinal wished 
to reign alone." The Cardinal had not measured the strength 
of his ally. " It might at first appear strange," says another 
old commentator, " that considering sex and custom and the 
general usage of all nations, a woman should be included in 
this government, but facts prove that so it was." Two trea- 
ties — the " Sainte Ligue " with the Pope and the Treaty of 
Cateau-Cambresis — were attributed to Diane's skill, and while 
she held sway even the Guises were subject to her. 

Her unpopularity as a politician must have sorely troubled 
her bonhomie and she sought compensation by courting popu- 

62 



DIANE DE POITIERS 

larity as a patron — a patron, that is, of a national art and 
literature. Catherine, " the Florentine," though in other ways 
such a true Frenchwoman, naturally loved Italian influences 
and favoured Italian artists, with whom the hostile people 
identified her. Diane cleverly saw that a broad road to their 
favour lay in advocating all that was anti-Italian, all that 
was essentially French. So she gathered around her at Anet 
a circle of French craftsmen and French writers — poets, sculp- 
tors, and architects, rich in native genius. Olivier de Magny 
was her Secretary and some of his passionate sonnets were 
probably written at Anet, poems instinct with human feeling 
which defied the conventions of his day. Long before Catherine 
took Philibert de 1' Orme to build her new Palace of the Tuile- 
ries, that great architect worked for Diane at Anet and told 
the world that he was her servant by his crest — an elm with 
the moon shining above it. Jean Goujon, too, chiselled his 
radiant Dian for her fountain : Jean Goujon, the exquisite 
stylist in marble ; the Frenchman who possessed the French 
gift of a natural artificialness, the poet's charm of subtle 
elegance and brilliant grace. 

Such men as these made Anet a resplendent citadel of the 
French Renaissance, and Diane, the typical Frenchwoman, was 
well equipped to play the part she had chosen as its queen. 
Her palace was indeed a kind of Thelema — the home of nature 
and of intellect, of beauty and of ease. " Fais-ce que voudras " 
might well have stood written over its portal ; Rabelais would 
have wandered there content, nor would Diane have been too 
refined to laugh at his jokes with the true Gaulois spirit. To 
her, as to her fellows, gaiety was more necessary than delicacy. 

It is interesting to study her at Anet apart from her intercourse 
with the King. Her life was one of ceaseless energy and mani- 
fold occupations. In the first place she managed her estate 
and superintended all the building there herself. " I can 
only talk about my masons," she wrote to a friend, "not a 
moment of my time with them is wasted and I hope that when 
you come here, you will find something new to give you plea- 
sure." All this personal supervision, which must have stimu- 
lated her craftsmen, was not confined to bricks and mortar. 
There were, besides, her human interests to be seen to. She 
had married off her two daughters, Frangoise and Diane, at 
an early age, the one to the Due d'Aumale, the other to the 
Comte de Bouillon. But the care of the royal children was 
largely in her hands, not only when they were at Anet, but 

63 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

when they were elsewhere with their Gouverneur and Gou- 
vernante, Monsieur and Madame d'Humieres. And she knew 
how to win these two important personages to her side. " The 
King was wonderfully pleased at M. le Dauphin's reception of 
the Queen of Scotland," she wrote to M. d'Humi^res, "and 
I know it all came from your teaching. . . . How I long to 
have you here for two hours, if it were only to make you eat the 
butter and cheese made by your dairywoman of Picardy I " 

A more conscientious guardian than Diane could not have 
been found. She wrote the minutest instructions about the 
royal children's concerns, whether she had to deal with the 
quarrels of their maids or the treatment of the Princess Claude's 
cough. Her letters are like terse and lucid despatches and 
woe to him who misunderstood them. All this must have 
taken up a great deal of time, but her day, like that of other 
ladies of the Renaissance, seems to have consisted of forty-eight 
hours. She spent a great part of it over her charities and 
perhaps nothing gives one such a notion of these as her Will. 
It is a triumph of administrative power and good sense. She 
leaves the bulk of her property to be divided between her two 
daughters, but if either of them should grow quarrelsome, 
" or disapprove of what I have done," her share would be 
taken from her and revert to some Hotel-Dieu. One does 
not know whether to dislike her grim insight into her children's 
characters, or to respect the sound, if indelicate sense which 
took prudential measures in good time. The sum which she 
tied up for her grandchildren was to be taken from them in the 
same way if they showed the least sign of " /a nouvelle re- 
ligionr and a like fate awaited the legacies bequeathed to her 
executors, if they did not at once pay her debts. " Him alone I 
consider my heir who findeth good my last will and testament," 
so concludes this remarkable document. Meanwhile, it arranges 
for the completion and the maintenance of a fine Hotel-Dieu 
at Anet. She leaves one fund for the dowries of destitute 
girls, " who have not a thing in the world," another to provide 
alms for five poor persons daily — the almoner to cry, as he 
bestows them, " Friez Dieu pour Diane de Poitiers.''^ She 
supports thirteen fortunate old bedeswomen ; she organizes 
and endows with admirable precision a Home for little girls 
who are to go there when they are seven years old and stay till 
they are ten, at which mature age they are to be fittingly 
married, with a dowry of ten francs each ; or if no husband can 
be found at once, they may live on there till he appears. Even 

64 



DIANE DE POITIERS 

if we allow for the spiritual diplomacies of a repentant great 
lady and her efforts to cajole Heaven by good works, a great 
deal of practical kindliness remains. Perhaps it strikes rather 
chill, as the roomy benevolence of those days is apt to do, a 
benevolence unwarmed by any fire of love. But Diane was 
not a personal woman and there was no place for intimacy in 
her scheme of existence. 

Apart from her correspondence with Henri, the most affec- 
tionate sentence to be found among her papers is perhaps in 
another clause of her Will. " To my nephew, Loys de Breze " 
(it runs), " for the sake of the good love which he knows that I 
have borne him . . . and that he may hold me in remem- 
brance, I give a pointed diamond, set in black enamel, the 
largest of the pointed ones in my possession." . . . ' The 
largest of the pointed ones ! ' What a profusion of diamonds, 
cut in all shapes, does that one phrase suggest, helping more 
than any description to evoke the Diane of Anet, the woman 
of the Renaissance. One cannot but speculate on the nature 
of the nephew who had meant so much to this rather inhuman 
lady. For the rest, she was a good friend of sure counsel, and 
people were evidently accustomed to go to her for help in their 
difficulties. There exists an amusing letter of hers, the letter 
of a model duenna, about a marriage of which she disapproved 
for the sake of propriety. 

" Madame, ma bonne amie — I saw your poor sister yesterday 
as you wished, and gave her a long, judicious lecture about 
her marriage. I made her see all the dangers it involves, and 
enforced on her that she must not expect much from a man 
who has never given up the company of unvirtuous w^omen ; 
but . . . all my words ended in smoke and the worst things I 
said went in at one ear and out at the other. She was so 
miserable that I did not persist too long, nor can there be 
much hope of any change of heart by such means. And so I 
come only to tell you that I see there is nothing to be done but 
to let her follow her inclinations." 

Her letters of sympathy, like those of Catherine and of 
most Renaissance women, were full of a large philosophy, but 
brought no warmer consolation. Her cousin, M. Bouchage, 
had lost a child. " I think that you should not be vexed about 
it, considering that you have another and may have more," 
she wrote — " Besides this, worry may make you ill . . . and 
therefore I entreat you not to grieve any more, for really there 
is no use in that." There was only one occasion on which her 

65 F 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

pen showed any emotion and that was the death of Lady Jane 
Grey. She was writing to her friend, Madame Montaigu. 
" I have just been hearing the account of the poor young Queen 
Jane, and I could not keep myself from weeping at the sweet 
and resigned words she spoke to them on the scaffold. Surely 
never was there seen such a gentle and accomplished princess." 

Usually, however, her correspondence does not dip below 
the brilliant surface of things, or express anything less obvious 
than a regal kind of high spirits. " When on earth are you 
coming to see me, Madame, ma bonne amie ? " she asks a 
friend, " I am very anxious for a sight of you, which will be 
sure to cheer me up in all my troubles. . . . The messenger 
from England has brought me back several handsome dresses 
from that country, of which, if you come quickly, you also 
shall have a good share. Do not put me off with fine words 
and promises — for I want to feel both my arms round your 
neck." 

Did the friend, one would like to know, resist this vitality 
and good-nature — as well as the dresses from England ? 

The sun did not shine every day, however. Diane was a 
good comrade as long as she had her will, but the person who 
got in her way found reason to repent. It was not only to 
Catherine that she was merciless. There is a notable instance 
of this in her conduct to the Duchesse d' Estampes. When 
Francois I died, Diane and Henri II were resolved on the 
downfall of Madame d'Estampes, who had long been their 
chief foe. They incited her husband to sue her about the 
arrears of his pension which they said she had kept back for 
herself ; they accused her of plotting with Wolsey to bring the 
English to the walls of Paris and, not content with this, they 
contrived to hit her harder through one, Jarnac, her lover. 
An intricate scheme was laid — so intricate that only a woman 
could have invented it — to insult Jarnac through the lips of 
La Chataignerie, the most invincible swordsman of the day, 
and thus to bring about a duel which would end in Jamac's 
certain death. All began as they wished ; and the duel, about 
to take place, was turned into a splendid public Joust, attended 
by the King and Diane and by all the great of the land. But 
Jarnac, trained by a skilful Italian fencer, was put up to the 
trick of reviving a fashion of chivalry and demanding heavy 
armour for himself and his opponent. To the amazement of 
the spectators, the unerring La Chataignerie, unused to this 
weight, fell to the ground defeated and mortally wounded. 

66 



DIANE DE POITIERS 

The custom of old Knighthood on such an occasion was for the 
victor to go to the King, to beg his fallen adversary's life at the 
royal hands, and, should he be fighting to vindicate himself, to 
demand his honour back from His Majesty. It was Jarnac's 
right to claim this privilege and he prepared to do so. All 
the world was watching when he approached Henri and Diane, 
who awaited him with lowering brows. Three times did he 
make his petition, three times did the King keep silence, trans- 
gressing every precedent by doing so. The enraged Jarnac 
turned to Diane ; " Madame," he shouted, " you told me how 
it would be ! " His cry revealed the plot to the public and the 
King, watched by a breathless audience, was forced at length 
to yield — to deal in the customary hyperbole and reluctantly 
to tell Jarnac that he fought like Caesar and spoke like Aris- 
totle. But he walked away sullenly and never went near his 
faithful henchman, the dying Chataignerie, who had been 
the cause of this disgrace. The story seems worth telling at 
some length because it is so characteristic of the philosophical 
heartlessness of the age. No one would have thought the 
worse of Diane for her share in it, nor did it prove that she was 
an especially cruel person. 

There is, perhaps, nobody so hard to realize as the woman f 
of the Renaissance. The woman of the Middle Ages, still 
rather primitive, with occupations and restrictions far remote 
from ours, is comparatively easy to grasp because she is out of 
reach. But the woman of the sixteenth century, robust, naive, 
intellectual, pursuing interests and activities like our own, 
with widely different thoughts and aspirations, is almost 
impossible to reconstruct. There is probably no such divi- 
ding gulf as superficial likeness, and these ladies were so vivid 
that no pale presentation of them serves. To approach them 
at all we must first get rid of our notions of morality, next of 
our notions of society. Etiquette, then, was not our stiff 
manufactured wire fence, but a flowering hedge — trimmed 
and artificial, but marvellously picturesque ; and there never 
was a time when grand people were so free and easy in their 
own circle and so encased in divinity for those outside it. If 
we remember this, it may help us to form some not too unreal 
image of Catherine de' Medici and her rival, Diane de Poitiers. 

They were the last great ladies of the Renaissance, for after 
them practically began the modern woman. The Princess 
Margot, wife of Henri IV, already wrote in her own individual 
style, dared to be natural, created forms of her own, with a 

67 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

freedom far from the days of the Court of her mother, Catherine. 
And Diane, the Frenchwoman, even more than Catherine, the 
Florentine, is the epitome of her sumptuous generation : 
Diane the Queen, Diane " la maUresse-femme provide (provi- 
dent) et tres-avisee qui donnait ordre sans bruit.^^ We close our 
eyes and see her, rather dim, rather distant, gracious and 
dominating, on a background of gold and silver tissue — the 
eyes smiling, the lips firmly closed. As we look, she opens 
them to speak and this is what her eyes and lips say to us : 
*' I was born without the doctrine of conviction of sin and I 
hate the Reformation ! " 



68 



CHAPTER IV 

The Court of Henri II 



69 



AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 

Memoirs de Henri II. 

Histoire de Lyon — Paradin. 

Lettres de Catherine de' Medici. 

Memoirs de Marguerite de Navarre. 

Lettres de Marie Stuart. 

Femmes Illustres — Brantome. 

Memoirs de Vielleville 

Relations de la Diplomatic Venitienne — Baschet. 

Le Sidge de Metz — Archives Curieuses. 

Melanges de I'histoire de Francois I et Henri II — Archives Curieuses, 

Lettres envoyees a la Reine-M^re — Archives Curieuses. 

Grand et magnifique Triomphe fait au mariage de Francois de Valois 

et Marie Stuart — Archives Curieuses. 
Trepas et obseques de Henri II — Archives Curieuses. 
Le Livre des Marchands. 
Catherine de Medicis — Bouchot. 
Catherine de Medicis — Capefigue. 
Biographical Introduction to the " Lettres de Catherine de' Medici" — 

Le Comte de la Ferridre. 
Les Moeurs poUes de la Cour de Henri II — Bourciez, 



70 



CHAPTER IV 

The Court of Henri II 

BETWEEN 1543 and 1555 ten children were born to 
Catherine and her husband, three of whom — twins, 
and a boy Louis — died in early infancy. The remaining 
seven were the Dauphin Francois, Charles and Henri (after- 
wards Charles IX and Henri III), Francois (Due d'Alen^on), 
EHzabeth (wife of Philip II), Claude (who married the Due 
de Lorraine), Marguerite_j[2ueen of Navarre). With these, 
in spite of Diane, Catherine was constantly occupied. She 
was a devoted mother as long as her children could not con- 
tradict her, and her letters of minute injunctions about them 
vie with those of her rival, exceeding them the while in affec- 
tion. " Monsieur d'Humieres " (she writes to their Gouverneur), 
" I have received your letter of the first of May and was rejoiced 
to have news of my children, who are quite well, for the which 
I praise God. As to what you write to me concerning the 
food of my daughter, Claude, the King and I are of opinion 
that she be fed upon toast and water rather than anything 
else, since it is healthier for her than broth — wherefore pray 
send for some for her. I beg you, M. d'Humieres, to have all 
my children painted for me, but let them be taken from a 
difierent side to the one from which the painter usually does 
them and send me the portraits the moment they are fin- 
ished." 

Or again to Madame d'Humieres — 

" To come to my little girl, I shall be very glad if you can 
go to her soon ; I have sent the tailor who makes the bodices 
of the daughters of Madame la Connetable to make one for 
her too. I entreat you to take great care that it should be 
very well cut — and I pray God, Madame de Humieres, to have 
you in His holy keeping. . . . 

"Votre bonne amye, 

" Catherine." 

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CATHERLNE DE* MEDICI 

While her children were still young, Catherine taught them 
a great deal herself, and later both she and the King were care- 
ful in the choice of their tutors. Henri himself appointed 
Danes, the illustrious Greek professor at the College de France, 
as the Dauphin's instructor. Amyot, the great Amyot, once 
rescued by Margaret of Angouleme from a student's starvation 
in a garret, now an honoured Bishop famed for his translation 
of Plutarch, was given as a teacher to the other princesses, 
who recited sonnets in public at seven years of age and were 
adepts in Latin, as well as in Italian and Spanish, when they 
had grown a few years older. But even these learned little 
ladies were surpassed by their cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, 
" la petite Sauvage/' as she was called, who soon became part 
of the Valois family. This bewitching baby princess of six 
was sent by her mother, Mary,^ to be brought up at the French 
Court under the protection of her maternal uncles, the omni- 
potent Guises, and of her cousin Henri II, destined as she 
was, from her first coming, to be his eldest son's bride. " Cette 
petite Reinette ecossaise^^ (wrote Catherine), " w'a qu^d sourire 
pour tourner toutes les tetes frangaises,^^ and her charm lay 
in her vivid sympathies, her need of pleasing every one from 
highest to lowest. There were grand preparations made for 
this infant Queen's arrival. " His Majesty," writes Diane 
de Poitiers to the Humieres, " desires that Madame Isabel 
(Princess Elizabeth, who was then three years old) and the 
Queen of Scotland should be lodged together, for which reason 
you will choose the best room for these two and for their 
suite ; for His Majesty wishes that from the beginning they 
should become closely acquainted." There were solemn 
arrangements too for the Dauphin's reception of his lady-love. 
The bethrothed couple were then six and seven respectively, 
but the Dauphin lost no time in becoming her devoted squire. 
He was a sickly, silent child, with pale cheeks and heavy 
manners — " like his mother in countenance," so says a Venetian 
envoy. But his affianced bride had always the power of putting 
life into him. " He dearly loveth Her Serene Highness, the 
little Queen of Scotland, Mary Stuart, who is destined to be 
his wife. She is a very pretty child . . . and it sometimes 
falleth out that — caressing one another the while — they are 
fain to retire apart, into a corner of the room, that none may 
overhear their little secrets." 

1 Mary of Guise, the widow of James VI, King of Scotland, and 
Regent during Mary's minority. 

72 



THE COURT OF HENRI II 

It was not only the son she conquered, but the father, for 
Henri II adored her, as Charles de Guise, the Cardinal de 
Lorraine, tells her mother. " The King " (he writes) " has 
taken such a fancy to your daughter, the Queen, that he 
spends his time delightfully in talking with her by the hour, 
and she knows as well as any woman of twenty-five how to 
rivet him by her good and wise conversation." This was 
some four or five years after her arrival, when her gifts and 
intelligence were already a topic for the courtiers. Their 
tropes knew no end. At nine, she was Minerva — at twelve 
she was Venus also. Catherine taught her at first with her 
own children, and there still exists a Latin exercise written 
when she was ten and corrected by the Queen of France. 
Later, she and her cousins passed into the hands of tutors. 
St. Paul, Cicero, Aristippus, Diogenes and Plato were elabo- 
rately expounded before these precocious scholars, so that they 
might become models of fortitude, virtue and erudition. 
At thirteen, Mary Stuart created a sensation by standing up 
before the King and Court in the great hall of the Louvre 
Palace, and reciting an elegant Latin discourse of her own com- 
position. Her mate in work and play was the little Princess 
Elizabeth, and one of Mary's tasks was to write themes on a 
given subject in the shape of letters to her comrade. One or 
two of these may still be read — fine embroidered samplers in 
writing, full of elegant twirls and flourishes on the duties of 
princes. "It is to incite you to read Plutarch, ma mie and 
my sweet sister, that in these my epistles I so often make 
mention of him. For he is a philosopher written to be heeded 
of princes. . . . The true grandeur and excellence of a prince, 
my very dear sister, is neither in rank, nor gold, nor purple, nor 
jewels, nor in any other pomp of fortune ; but in prudence and 
virtue and wisdom and knowledge. And the more the prince 
desireth to be different from his people in his habits and his 
manner of living, the further off must he be kept from the foolish 
opinions of the vulgar herd." This aristocratic sentiment 
smacks of Ronsard, who was, indeed, her poetry-master ; 
but it is a strange picture, that of these little girls in their 
stiff jewelled bodices, bending painfully over their stiff, spark- 
ling epistles on remote royal topics to one another. 

Some women are born in a tempest to evoke tempests, 
and more storm-winds could not have blown round Helen of 
Troy than blew, from the beginning, round Mary Stuart. 
As might be supposed, Diane de Poitiers' first move was to 

73 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

steal the girl away from Catherine and win her to herself, an 
achievement made all the easier by her alliance with the 
Guises. Other things helped her. The fastidious " Reinette 
d'Ecosse " in a naughty fit, probably after a Latin lesson with 
the elder Queen, called Catherine " une fille de marchands " — 
an amusing sidelight on the view that the Guises took of the 
Medici. The saying was promptly repeated to Catherine. 
From that time forward, though her outward behaviour never 
varied, though she treated her daughter-in-law with honour, 
Mary fell out of her good graces. Diane's ascendency over 
Mary increased accordingly. " I won't forget to tell you that 
my uncle, M. de Guise, and my aunt, Madame de Guise, take 
greater care of me and my affairs than they take of their own 
child. ... I can say no less of Madame de Valentinois. I 
pray you, Madam, write to them all "—so she addresses her 
mother in Scotland. And again, rather later : " For the rest, 
my mother, you know how closely bound I am to Madame 
de Valentinois because of the love that ever more and more 
she showeth unto me." And she goes on to complain that she 
is no longer in favour with Catherine. 

Everything about the girl is picturesque, even the small cares 
that oppress her. Mary of Guise has ordered her to give away 
some of her dresses to her ladies-in-waiting and one of them 
has misrepresented her as disobedient to these orders. She 
has already presented three to her ladies that they may make 
church draperies out of them, and she has given more to others. 
But she finds her things taken from her wardrobe by her 
treacherous accuser, so that she has nothing left for presents. 
" Nor has she ever credited me with giving away so much as a 
pin, whence I have got the name of being stingy — so much 
so that some people have said that I was not in the least like 
you." At fifteen, such minor preoccupations no more existed 
for her and her letters are already concerned with the making 
of Court marriages and other mature topics. The child, how- 
ever, lived on in her beneath the stately brocade ; for shortly 
before this, the Cardinal wrote home to her mother that she 
still " sometimes forgot herself and ate too much, owing to 
her always having such a good appetite." " But I will take 
greater care than ever about her diet" — so concludes this 
grand hierarch of a nurse. ... " The doctors pledge me 
their word that she is of a temperament that will, with God's 
help, ensure her living as long as any of her relations." 

It would be difficult to give undue prominence to Mary 

74 



THE COURT OF HENRI II 

Stuart, for she had a genius for being the centre wherever she 
found herself, and she was long the centre of the French Court. 
Before she married, however, a rival younger by ten years 
had appeared in the shape of her cousin, the Princess Margot, 
as remarkable a child as herself. This astonishing little crea- 
ture was a prodigy of wit and repartee. Vivid, endearing, pas- 
sionate and brilliantly naughty, she soon became the life of 
her circle and made a willing subject of her father. The picture 
of the King's delight in his little girl is as refreshing as clear 
water on our wearisome journey through those corrupt days, 
and no one could portray it more prettily than did the Princess 
Margot herself. She will start, she says, at the first interesting, 
remembrance of her life : 

" Like to the geographers who describe the earth, when they 
have reached the last boundary known to them and say — * Be- 
yond this there are only sandy deserts, uninhabited countries 
and unnavigated seas ' — so shall I likewise say that beyond 
me there stretches only the large vague plain of first childhood, 
where we live guided rather by nature, in like fashion to plants 
and animals, than as men governed by reason. And to those 
who brought me up at that tender age, I shall leave the super- 
fluous research which may end in the discovery of certain 
childish actions, as worthy perchance to be recorded as those 
of the childhood of Themistocles and Alexander . . . among 
which may be counted the retort I made to my father, the 
King. ... I was at the time some four or five years old, and 
he, holding me upon his knee to make me talk, told me to 
choose which of the two I would take as my servitor : Monsieur 
le Prince de JoinviUe (later the great and unfortunate Due 
de Guise) or the Marquis of Beaupreau, son of the Prince de 
la Roche-sur-Yon. Both these boys were playing near my 
father and I was looking at them. I told him I would choose 
the Marquis. Quoth my father,' Wherefore ? he is not as 
handsome as the other ' (for the Prince de JoinviUe was white 
and fair and the Marquis de Beaupreau had brown hair and 
a brown complexion) ; I replied that it was because he had a 
better nature and that the other could not live patiently 
through one day without doing a mischief to someone and 
must always play the master. A sure prophecy of what we 
saw in after days." 

It may be that this was the only moral choice ever made by 
the " Reine Margot " ; it certainly was the one moment that 
she did not desire the devotion of Henri de Guise, whose 

75 



CATHERINE DE* xMEDICI 

love she set her wayward heart upon. The Prince she was 
destined not to love but to marry, little Henri of Navarre, 
must also have been her playmate when he visited the French 
Court with his parents. " Wouldst thou like to become my 
son-in-law ? " said the King one day, taking him in his arms, 
and the bridegroom-elect no doubt retorted gaily. The King, 
must have loved and attracted children, for they seem to have 
been always about him. These "golden boys and girls," with 
their fine manners and their childish grace, flit like April sun- 
beams across the stem page of history, and constantly recall 
those superb miniatures by the Clouets of kingly little person- 
ages, half children, half men, plumed caps on their heads, 
shining chains round their necks, standing out in their ermine 
and white satin against green backgrounds, so gallant, so 
courteous, so confident, so helpless, that we long to put out 
our hands and beseech them to stay where they are that they 
may never grow older or less innocent. 

II 

The world in which these children and their elders lived was 
a strange one, so strange that we cannot judge it. It is full 
of the contradictions and paradoxes, the serious frivolity and 
frivolous seriousness, the self-indulgence and reactionary 
austerities of a time of transition. Its powers of production 
and its absence of discrimination are alike surprising. Eternal 
mysteries were clearly proved by logic, while plain scientific 
facts were wrapped in a dense obscurity. On the one hand, 
men seemed to be rushing into free thought ; on the other, 
philosophers, like Paracelsus, believed in salamanders and 
gnomes as an essential part of the cosmic order. Astrology, 
too, ranked high as a branch of knowledge. Catherine brought 
the two Ruggieri in her train from Italy ; and, in 1556, she 
summoned Nostrodamus, far-famed for his skill in horoscopes, 
to Paris, to act as a kind of chief horoscopist to the young 
Princes. She went so far as to build a tower for her astrologers 
in Les Halles, and it may have been there that the King came 
to consult one of them who prophesied the manner of his death. 
In this time of constant discovery, this time, too, of no news- 
papers, everything appeared equally possible, and Pliny's 
" Tales " were as much believed in as the travels of Magellan 
and Columbus. Africa was popularly supposed to produce 
fire-breathing dragons, and Guillaume de Tester, who made an 
imaginary map of the country beyond the Ganges, peopled it 

76 



^•74f .^.uj^ttfJiU ^aiAtiit %/H,/,,^ .;"/;//, A, 




.:m. 



MARGUiiKiiE i>i<: Valois, Keink uii Navarre. 

(l.A REINE MAKGOT.) VEK.S 1555. 
POKTRACT ANONYME. BIBLIOTHEQUE NAIIONALE. 

From a photograph oy A. Giraiuion. 



1 



\o 



THE COURT OF HENRI II 

with pigmies fighting with cranes. The East exercised its 
magic spell on men's fancy. Postel, the great professor at 
the College de France, had been wandering through Syria, 
trying with the child-like faith of the Renaissance scholar to 
discover the traces of a primitive language which would prove 
to be the origin of all languages ; had wandered and returned 
to teach Eastern tongues at his College. There had been a time 
when he had dreamed of Francois I as Emperor of France and 
of the East, and though Henri II cherished no such remote 
ambitions, he kept some Asiatic tastes. Oriental dress became 
fashionable at Court and so did Oriental masquerades. There 
was one of especial magnificence given by Henri at night in 
the Rue St. Antoine. Amidst the flash of torches, he and the 
Dauphin in mystic white silk robes, their followers dressed as 
Moors and Turks in armour or in opalescent draperies, came 
forth on horseback, some from the Palace of Les Tournelles, 
some from the Hotel de Montmorency, and danced, centaur-like, 
on their horses, to the sound of weird Eastern music. Phan- 
tasmagoria such as these were perhaps partly suggested by the 
strange sights seen at the Court ; by the wild beasts kept there 
and the outlandish dwarfs that gave such mysterious pleasure 
to the crowned heads of that day ; " Augustin Romanesque," 
for instance, in his big turban and his velvet dress, half yellow 
and half grey, or " le petit Bezon," or " la Jardiniere, Folle- 
en-titre de la Cour," all belonging to Catherine, sure of pleasing 
her whatever they did, and able to get what they liked from 
her. The world they reveal to us is constantly grotesque, but 
it never lacks colour. We turn our eyes indoors and find walls 
amply covered with Flemish tapestries and Italian pictures — 
or outside, and see rivers strewn with painted barges and 
streets pied with gaily-clad citizens ; or else we may watch 
one of the frequent jousts in which the King's men, dressed in 
Diane's black and white, fight some grandee's followers in 
scarlet, or purple, or gold, for each noble can be recognized 
by the hue he has chosen as his own. 

And when we seek a background to this vivid, motley life, 
we reconstruct the Paris of the sixteenth century. It was still 
half a feudal-looking city, with Renaissance ornament grafted 
on to warlike walls. In the centre of everything, on I'lle de 
France, stood, as it stands now, Notre-Dame, like the spiritual 
citadel of the place ; the Sainte Chapelle rose there too, and 
still rises, definite and delicate and graceful as a French idea. 
On the south was the Hill of Ste. Genevieve, with its churches 

77 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

and colleges, its monastery-orchards and green convent- 
gardens, sloping steeply down to the river. The fashionable 
region, made up of narrow streets, shockingly paved and worse 
lighted, lay to the right. Here in the Rue du Temple was 
Diane's sombre palace, La Barbette, while close by, in the 
Rue St. Antoine, was the Hotel of Madame d'Estampes. The 
Bourbons lived opposite in the Louvre itself, still rather stern 
and only half concerned with the Renaissance. But the Court 
often lodged, as of old, in the ancient Palace of Les Tournelles : 
Les Tournelles, with its famous galerie des Courges where 
the courtiers walked — the Gallery of Angels which the Duke 
of Bedford had had painted more than a hundred years earlier. 
From its azure ceiling there descended '* a legion of Angels 
playing on sweet instruments and singing anthems to Our 
Lady," and angels upholding princely blazons floated down its 
whole length. In past days. Queens had ""passed along it to 
their Oratory." Catherine more probably used it for diplomatic 
walks with one of the Venetian ambassadors. 

Perhaps nothing is more characteristic of this perplexing 
age, and nothing more clearly marks it as a time of transition 
than the position of royalty itself. Sovereigns were never 
farther from, or nearer to, their subjects. They still kept the 
remoteness of their divine right ; the more so, perhaps, be- 
cause there had already been faint whispers questioning the 
divinity of their privilege, faint tremblings of the eternal throne 
beneath them. And they still kept the old-fashioned feudal 
familiarity of a King with his people, the familiarity which 
looks as if it were the opposite of heaven-conferred kingship, 
but is, in reality, part of it. For these monarchs accepted a 
kind of fatherly, miracle-working godhead as belonging to 
their royal office, and they regarded the contact with the mob 
which it implied much as the Olympian gods must have re- 
garded it. When Catherine went in and out of the Louvre, it was 
probably her daily duty (as it was that of Anne of Austria) 
to hear herself loudly addressed by the crowd, even to have 
her dress seized by them. Personal petitions, presented by all 
manner of individuals, from the fishwives upwards, were also of 
common occurrence and no grievance seemed too small for the 
ear of royalty. There was also the King's "touching" of the 
sick. For this function he retired to the town of St. Marcoul, the 
patron-saint of the scrofulous, for ten days after his coronation. 
And this task of his was by no means confined to the opening 
of his reign. He frequently fulfilled it wherever he went, 

78 



THE COURT OF HENRI H 

and a Diarist of 1556, who witnessed the whole proceeding 
at Fontainebleau, has left us a picture of what he saw. 

" That same day,'* he writes, " when every one came out 
from Mass in the Palace Chapel, a large number of sick people 
were placed in order on the Road of the Lake of Fontainebleau — 
a fine broad road leading to the King's palace . . . sheltered 
by the shade of divers great trees, that are planted in rows 
. . . and beneath this shade on their knees were the aforesaid 
invalids, who were waiting for His Majesty to come out from 
Mass and to touch them. The which he did very humbly, 
in nowise disdaining the poor sick folk, howsoever ravaged by 
disease, but touching their faces with his right hand, saying : 
' I touch thee, may God cure thee ! ' Monsieur the Grand 
Almoner, Louis de Breze, stood behind the poor people and, 
by the King's orders, he gave to each a piece of money as an 
alms, saying unto them, * Pray God for the King.' This being 
done, His Majesty admonished them to be ever good Christians 
. . . devoutly serving God, the Virgin Mary and Monsieur 
St. Marcoul — the which we witnessed with our own eyes, being 
at that very time in the town of Fontainebleau." 

The scene is a curious mixture of arrogance and homeliness. 
Catherine, with the blood of Florentine merchants in her 
veins, carried the homeliness a step farther, or rather she 
made it the cloak for curiosity and jealousy — perhaps also 
for her love of adventure. With all her caution she could 
do things that amaze us by their rashness. She used at one 
time to walk masked and disguised about the streets of Paris 
to spy upon the actions of the King. But oftener her secret 
wanderings had a poUtical purpose. Sometimes she went 
alone, sometimes with her daughter Margot. " That very 
day she walked in the city with the Queen of Navarre without 
being recognized, and this was so that she might listen to people 
talking and learn what they said of the Government. The 
two ladies went in and out of the shops, making believe to 
want to buy things ; and there they heard many stories against 
the great, even against the Queen of Navarre,' who was stand- 
ing there." The dignity of such doings is questionable, and 
they make a contrast which is almost uncouth, when com- 
pared with the buckram etiquette which Catherine imposed 
on her courtiers as well as on her children. She is never 
tired of preaching its importance to the little Queen of Spain, 
in the first days of her marriage, when childhood was still 
hardly behind her. 

79 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

*' Madame ma fHW^ (Catherine writes) "... I am told by 
those who are about you that you do not make as much of 
any of your women as of Vineuf and that, in comparison with 
her, you take no count either of my cousin, or of Madame de 
Clermont ... so that all the Spaniards and even your hus- 
band laugh at you. In truth ... in the position which 
you occupy this is very unseemly, and your feasting and 
paying such attentions to your ladies shows that you still 
have the child in you. When you are alone in your room 
and in privacy, pass your time gaily ; frolic with them and 
with everybody ; but before people, take great notice of your 
cousin and of Madame de Clermont. The other young crea- 
tures can only teach you imbecilities. Do what I tell you 
in this respect, if you wish me to approve of you and to love 
you and to believe that you love me as you ought." 

Rather a terrible letter for a homesick little girl to get, 
alone in a foreign land. But seeming absurd was ever the 
cardinal sin in Catherine's eyes. 

Kingship in those days was not kept up without expen- 
diture and a vast amount of picturesque effect. Many were 
its resources, chief among them, perhaps, the use of public 
pageants, a ready means to maintain Majesty as well as good- 
fellowship with the people. These pageants were arranged 
by the best artists and carried out with an almost insolent 
sumptuousness. The long list of birthday-feasts and wed- 
dings and funerals and processions to churches and entries 
into towns, with all their monotony of splendour, is fatiguing 
to the mind. Every occasion was made a pretext for them. 
If there was a drought, the Holy Chalice of Ste Genevieve 
had to be borne in state through Paris ; if the Turks arrived 
at Court with handsome gifts from Soliman, Fantasias cost- 
ing fortunes were invented for them. At Henri II's entry 
into Paris after his coronation, two thousand pages walked, 
each before his master, dressed in that master's colours ; 
" and one would have said," writes old Vielleville, " that the 
eye looked on meadows pied with blossom, as if it were the 
merry month of May . . . the which was a thing most de- 
lectable and wondrous to behold." 

A great deal of eating and drinking was, of course, con- 
nected with these festivities. Catherine's accounts for the 
banquets she gave to Paris in 1549, ^^^^^ ^^ extravaganza 
of culinary imagination. The names of the cakes in the 
pastry-bill alone make the most abstemious person wish to 

80 



THE COURT OF HENRI II 

taste them — even after reading of twenty-one swans, nine 
cranes, and thirty-three " trubles d large lee'' an enigmatic 
bird of the past whose name seems to breathe a mystic succu- 
lence. After such soHd fare, " the sum of 93 Hvres 7 sols 
tournois spent upon sweet waters for the perfuming and 
folding of the linen used at the said banquet " ; and the " Item, 
in flowers, bouquets and toothpicks 47 sols," come as a grace- 
ful finish ; and the entry of " musicians' wages " seems to set 
the whole feast dancing. The concoction of these rarities 
was considered to be almost as much of an art as painting or 
sculpture, for, even then, French cooks were a recognized 
dynasty. " The other Kings of Christendom, nay, even of 
the Universe, can in no way approach the excellency of our 
delicate dishes : whether it be in singular fashions of trium- 
phant cooking at banquets, or in the dainty and cleanly 
dressing and disguising of viands by our officers. Whereof 
no other testimony is wanted than that all the foreign Princes 
send to France for their cooks and confectioners." The pride 
of France in its chefs went farther than this. When the 
Marshals Vielleville and Andre went to England on a depu- 
tation to Edward VI, their King forbade them and their 
retinue to touch English food. So they brought with them 
twelve horses laden with every kind of game and fruit, of 
such a nature that " tons les millorts cursed the intemperance 
of their climate which forbade the existence of these dainties." 
France has remained the same in other and prettier ways 
than cooking. " It belongeth to Frenchmen alone to play 
the fool with a good grace," says a gentleman of the time, 
and " French minds" (he sagely adds) "are like the heavens 
themselves — to wit, in perpetual motion." But although 
this quality of mobile gaiety has not changed, the manner of 
its expression has transformed itself. There is apparently 
no difference so incurable as a difference in the sense of what 
amuses, and this it is, indeed, which makes one of the chief 
difficulties in reconstructing past centuries. Humour is a 
matter of fine shades and of intricate social relations, and in 
the sixteenth century the sense of humour could hardly be 
said to have existed. The jokes of that day fill us with a 
kind of despondency. Henri II entered a town of Savoy 
and was met by a company of a hundred men disguised as 
bears, who conducted him to Mass and thence to his palace, 
climbing along the walls of the houses and frightening the 
horses in the streets so much that they threw their unfor- 

81 G 



CATHERINE DE* MEDICI 

tunate riders ; the King only remarked that he had never seen 
anything so funny and gave the bears two thousand crowns. 
This kind of fun is hard work. Perhaps the same may be 
said of an occasion at Brussels, when the King of Spain, in 
church and having the Gospel in his hand, was solemnly 
ratifying the Peace of Vaucelles. He had to hold on by the 
altar-rail, so shaken was he by his mirth at the sight of an 
unseemly scramble for " Largesse " which suddenly took 
place, it had been organized by a French wag, in derision 
of Spanish stinginess, and the sight of the congregation falling 
hither and thither so exhilarated not only Ferdinand, but 
the Queen of Hungary and the French Princesses, that they 
laughed for a whole hour " while the comedy lasted." That 
day at dinner, the same wag delighted His Majesty even more 
by suddenly taking up two comers of the tablecloth, throw- 
ing himself the whole length of the table, seizing the remain- 
ing corners and walking off with all the delicious banquet — 
by no means forgetting to bow and say '' grand merci ^^ at 
the door. Other times, other manners ; and when we long 
for the adventurousness of a past day, we must also remember 
its tediums and its hilarious stupidity. 

The most abiding quality in human nature, the link which 
most unfailingly unites one generation with another, is prob- 
ably the need of distraction. And this is especially the case 
in a decadent period like the last half of the sixteenth century — 
a time of restlessness following on one of large and concen- 
trated activity — of asking " Cui bono ? " after living on con- 
victions. " Some " comments Tavannes " set their hearts 
on building and gardening, on painting, or reading, or the 
chase ; they run after an animal all day and get their faces 
torn in the woods ; or they trot from morning till evening 
after a ball of wool ; or they spend the day and the night at 
games of hazard, from which they rise without any great 
reluctance; or they buy arms and horses and never use them. 
Sadness and melancholy without a legitimate cause are their 
own just punishment — a failure to recognize the grace of God 
which has made us immortal. What honour is there, after 
all, in being like the million ? And must we for ever be 
searching the world for a thing that is not in it ? " 

The passage might apply to our own day, the last words 
to almost any day ; but they have a special meaning for the 
age over which Henri II reigned as King. 

82 



THE COURT OF HENRI II 

III 
The Henri II of thirty- two was a very different personage 
from the Henri II of ten years earlier. He had become a 
popular King and his Paris loved him. Youth was not his 
moment even as regards his looks, which grew striking with 
the advancing years, a fact by no means unimportant in the 
eyes of his impressionable people. " His figure ... is a 
gallant one for work . . .his mien is so affable, so human, 
that from the first moment he takes possession of every man's 
heart and every man's devotion." So writes one of his sub- 
jects and chroniclers, Claude d'Aubepine. " He has vivid 
black eyes," says another, " a big nose, a rather common 
mouth and a pointed beard of two fingers' length ; the whole 
ensemble of his countenance is extraordinarily winning . . . 
His kindliness is natural ... he is gracious and refuses an 
audience to no one. At his meals there are constantly people 
present full of talk about their own affairs, and the King 
listens and answers everything in most courteous fashion. 
He has never been seen in ill-humour except sometimes out 
hunting, and he is in many ways a temperate man. When 
we compare him with his father, we may even call his morals 
pure, and there is certainly one good point about him — he 
does not get himself talked about, which could not be said 
of King Frangois. ... He eats and drinks most moderately. 
... It is a fact that he is considered less liberal and less 
magnificent than his father ; that, however, may be because 
he gives much to the few." A changed being this from the 
" dreamy, drowsy, sullen boy " who was never seen to laugh 
and had nothing to say. Diane had done her work well. 
He had, it is true, none of the intangible glamour, the charm 
almost amounting to genius, which hung about his father, 
but his qualities were more solid and more stable. His faults, 
too, were such as his impressionable people readily forgave. 

Le peuple excuse Henri, 
Maudit Montmorency, 

Hait Diane, 
Surtout ceux de Guise aussi. 

So runs a lampoon of the time and it sums up public opinion. 
For however bitterly Diane was hated, she lent an extra in- 
terest to the King's personality, an exalting interest of romance 
which he would have lacked without her. A traveller of the 
time then in Paris, who had the one virtue needful in a 
traveller, the habit of keeping a journal, tells us how he one 

83 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

day looked up at the palace of the Louvre and saw the King 
distinctly in one of the rooms giving upon the Seine. He 
wore a black cap with a little white feather and a gold chain 
round his neck. " His coat was of black damask bordered 
with velvet, and embroidered with two silver crescents most 
closely united by the embrace of the two Ds, even as are, in 
truth, the two souls of the two lovers." The Swiss and the 
Guard, says the diarist, were in the same black and silver 
and bore the shining crescent on the back and front of their 
uniforms, as well as the royal motto, *' Donee totum impleat 
orbem,'' ^ a picture which suggests a sober splendour, more 
harmonious than any regal colours. 

Henri II grew grey early and looked an elderly man at 
thirty-five. It is amusing to find how anxious were the 
sovereigns of Europe about each other on this score. 
Charles V's enquiries concerning Henri II's appearance read 
like those of an elderly beauty after another and a younger 
lady. They were made in the midst of a critical business 
interview, when the French ambassadors went to Brussels 
to conclude the Peace of Vaucelles with the Emperor. They 
found him in a small house, seated on a black cloth chair, 
dressed very differently from their sumptuous Henri, in "a 
little suit of Florentine serge like that of a common citizen, 
cut above the knee, his arms being passed through the sleeves 
of a black coat made of German stuff ; he had a cap trimmed 
with a narrow silk cord, and a chemise with a simple collar." 
..." How is the King ? " he asked in the course of the 
conversation. " Very well. Sire,' ' replied the envoy. " He ! 
how glad I am ! " quoth Charles, " but I am told he is already 
turning grey. Yet there can be nothing younger than he is. 
It seems, so to speak, only three years since he was a child 
in Spain, without a hair on his face." " Sire,'' answered the 
polite Frenchman, " in truth, the King hath two or three 
little white hairs." ..." Oh ! no need to wonder at that," 
resumed the monarch. ..." I will tell you what happened 
to me when I was about his age. I was returning from a 
journey . . . and I stayed at Naples. You know the charm 
of the town, the beauty and goodly grace of its ladies. I am 
a man — I wished to gain their favour, like other men. The 
day after I arrived, in the morning, I summoned my barber 
to brush and frizz and perfume me ... I am given a mirror. 
I look at myself, much as your King, my good brother, must 
^ Until it fill the whole world. 
84 



THE COURT OF HENRI H 

have done. Startled and amazed — ' What is this ? ' I ask. 
' Two or three white hairs,' says my barber. There were 
more than a dozen. ' Remove those hairs,' say I to my 
barber, ' and do not leave a single one,' — the which command 
he obeys. Do you know what happened to me ? " (these words 
he addressed to all the French lords) — *' A little time after- 
wards, wishing to look at myself again in the glass, I found 
that for one white hair that had been taken away, there now 
were three. And if I had done the same by these, in less than 
no time I should have become as white as a swan." 

Henri H's grey hairs did not impair his energy. We have 
only to glance at an account of his ordinary day to be re- 
assured on this head. It began at dawn with " Les affaires 
du Matin,' ' a function which originated with him. As soon 
as he woke his chemise was brought to him, and all the grandees 
entered to salute him. The garment was then handed to 
him by the Prince of highest rank then present ; the King 
dressed and prostrated himself in public before the little altar 
in his bedroom. When he rose every one retired, excepting 
those who remained for " I'Etroit," or Privy Council, which 
held peace and war in its hands, despatched the administrative 
work of the realm and organized, as well, all its naval and 
military arrangements. Mass followed business, then he had 
a frugal dinner, after which the General Council assembled 
to debate on such matters as appertained to legislation and 
to justice. This, however, was rarely attended by His Majesty, 
who divided the afternoon between outdoor sports and such 
studies as happened to be interesting him. The impassioned 
huntsman came first in him, the racquet-player second. In 
the racquet-court all ceremony was abolished. *' Hardly 
would any one know that the King was playing," says one 
of his spectators; " his very mistakes are openly discussed 
and more than once I have heard him put in the wrong." 
Indoors, his chief pleasure was music, in which as he grew 
older he took ever greater delight. " Dearly doth he love 
music and he hath the best notions concerning it, asking for 
it nearly every day both at his lever and his coucher.'' 

What were the delicious melodies to which he rose and 
slept again ? What were the dying sounds of lute and horn 
and dulcimer, of rebec, of hautboy and of clavichord ? Did 
he wake to some air by Goudimel whom Palestrina loved ? 
or to Jannequin's " Caquet des femmes " and his " Chant de 
VAloueUe ? " And was it the Dugues, that family of sweet 

85 



CATHERINE DE* MEDICI 

musicians, who played him into kingly slumbers ? In earlier 
days it would have been his chapel choristers with " flutes, 
spinets and viols, among which rose up their voices, in the 
which he took a great delight ; " and they would have sung 
him some psalm of Marot's, or perhaps the one that he himself 
composed in his youth. He could hardly ever refrain from 
joining in these chants himself, and when he was ill, they alone 
refreshed his spirit. But if some music-loving guest, how- 
ever humble, chanced to enter the room during a concert, the 
King graciously bade him approach and listen, and gave him 
the parts of the song which was being sung so that he might 
carry them away. 

Other arts than music were more or less indifferent to him 
and, unlike his contemporaries, he had no sort of taste for 
jewels or tapestry or the minor crafts, or even for the larger 
one of building. But talk in his later years diverted him 
and it was his custom after early dinner to seek it in the Queen's 
public drawing-room. Here, together with his wife, his sister 
Marguerite, his little daughters and Mary Stuart, he found 
(to use an old flatterer's language) " a troop of human god- 
desses, one more beautiful than another. Here, every lord 
and gentleman entertained her whom he loved best, and this 
devising lasted for two hours. After the which he went out 
to enjoy divers exercises . . . the ladies for the most part 
following him, so that they, too, might share this pleasure." 
With the dusk came the stately royal supper and, until two 
years before his death, he spent the hours after it with Diane. 
But from 1557 onwards, he changed his tactics and in grati- 
tude for the help his wife had given him while he was absent 
in the wars, he nightly repaired to her rooms and spent an 
hour there with her. The time went in talk, unless there 
happened to be a ball. Then he would stay to join it, or to 
watch the stately dances that they had then : grave and 
deliberate dances, "like games of chess played upon squares 
of carpet " — the Pavane, the Allemande, the Canaries, the 
Branle des Sabots, or the Branle des Torches, in which a torch 
was passed from one to another ; or else the Branle des Lavan- 
dieres, in which the dancers clapped their hands to imitate 
the sound made by washerwomen when they beat their linen 
near the Seine. " AU this brilliance," says Bran tome, might 
be seen shining in a ball-room of the Louvre, as stars shine 
in the sky when the weather is serene." The evening over, 
there began the King's State Coucher. He undressed in the 

86 



THE COURT OF HENRI 11 

presence of the Court ; the Chamberlain himself saw that his 
bed was made and, as a final ceremony, the usher brought 
him the official keys and put them under his pillow. This 
done, the King was at last allowed to go to sleep like other 
mortals. 

The tone of the Court during his lifetime — a Court where 
there were three hundred ladies, French, Scotch, and Italian 
— is the true measure of his personality. His steady fidelity 
to Diane, his steady infidelity to his unpopular wife, created 
a peculiar kind of moral code, and Contarini tells us that from 
being famed for its vice the French Court became " regular 
enough." " King Henry loved good stories as well as the 
Kings, his predecessors, but he did not like at all to shock 
ladies by them." No courtier dared laugh at a coarse joke, 
and Catherine was as strict as he was about any breach of 
manners. Her ladies and gentlemen were summoned to her 
presence even if they quarrelled, and each one stood in whole- 
some awe of her — " for that she was the best lady in the whole 
world at rebuffing and astounding an offender." No doubt, 
in spite of her scoldings, *'/^s Marquis et Marquises do Bellc- 
bouche,''^ as the Court scandal-mongers were called, found work 
enough to keep their tongues busy. 

In the forefront of all mischief-making stood Charles de 
Guise, Cardinal de Lorraine, " who would like " (wrote Jeanne 
d'Albret) " to set households b}^ the ears all over France." 
His brothers, though quite as arrogant, were not quite as 
baneful as he ; the Marquis d'Elboeuf. the Cardinal de Guise, 
and the Due d'Aumale (Diane's son-in-law), because they had 
less influence, and the omnipotent Francois, Due de Guise, 
because he was so often absent in the wars. They all pro- 
fessed the same tenets and led the Roman Catholic party 
against every opponent, whether heretical or merely desirous 
to reform the existing Church. Here again the Cardinal de 
Lorraine was pre-eminent. He was a singular mixture of 
the fashionable preacher, the ambitious dandy, the art-patron, 
the scholarly man of letters, and the Valet d'Etat with an 
immense salary. " Ever most perfect in the science of the 
courtier," upstairs and downstairs and in my lady's chamber, 
he was equally at ease with his Horace in the library or in a 
Parisian pulpit, pouring forth his elegant cascades of oratory 
to a crowded congregation. Many accomplishments were 
his besides ; he was a brilliant linguist, a deft theologian, and 
he had, according to a distinguished modern critic, " the 

«7 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

^ strongest political head of his day." It was perhaps even 
more to his advantage that he possessed the gift of good looks, 
was " de noble et grave presence,''^ and won the hearts of 
most women. Nor had he to wait long for results ; he speedily 
laid up treasure for himself and combined success with economy 
— " keeping no private table for the space of two years, but 
dining daily at the table of Madame de Valentinois," which 
must have been a sad aggravation to needy courtiers who 
had to provide their own dinners. For the Cardinal was 
decidedly avaricious, though his avarice, like his natural 
violence, was kept under steely control and was almost equalled 
by his love of luxury. He surpassed his fellow Cardinal, 
Wolsey, in display of mundane pomp, and, with his refined 
aristocratic traditions, he had many more tastes to satisfy. 
Indeed he had never known hardship and was made for the 
alcove where he usually remained. Not that he was without 
his more adventurous moments. In one of the campaigns 
against the Emperor he rode forth to battle on a grey mare, 
together with the French troops, dressed in a crimson velvet 
robe with a white cross, and wearing finely-wrought spurs 
affixed to his boots — all ready to help him to flight. " Whereat," 
observes his chronicler, " every one fell a laughing." And 
this was not the only occasion on which his discretion was 
the better part of his valour. We catch a glimpse of him in 
a Paris riot — an anti-Guise demonstration — when " a swarm 
of people, like bees after a storm, came in serried heaps to the 
shop into which the Lord Cardinal had retired — whence also 
he issued forth with some of his guard — his head hanging low, 
like a poppy beaten by the rain." 

A very different person was his brother, the Due Francois. 
Insolent and brutal he was of course, or he would not have 
been a great sixteenth century soldier ; but generous and 
heroic also, and dignified by the sufferings and privations 
that war had compelled him to undergo. His qualities were 
sensational and, in spite of the hatred of the nation at large, 
he periodically became the darling of fickle Paris. But both 
he and his less important brothers were dramatic types rather 
than individuals, and though they dominated the Court, they 
have no fine shades with which to occupy us. 

Far more interesting, as is often the case, were the leaders 
of the Opposition : the two Bourbon princes, Antoine, King 
of Navarre, and his brother, the Prince de Conde ; and the 
three noble Chatillons, also brothers — Gaspard, the Admiral 

88 




<v^ Avi/ i^e^'U <^a '^'J'^U 



Thk thrick Comcnys. 
The Cakoinal oe Chatii.lon. Thk Admiral. Thk Mak^chai, d'Ani eu 
duawing ok thk french school in the kibi.iothkque nationai.e. 
From a photogrnf>h by A. Giramion. 



A 



THE COURT OF HENRI H 

de Coligny, the Marshal d'Andelot, and the Cardinal Odet 
de Chatillon. These five men, especially the last three, were 
more or less identified with the Huguenot cause and more or 
less hated by the Guises. The Bourbons, as princes of the 
blood and therefore next, after the royal children, to the throne, 
were the objects of their especial enmity, but as far as principle 
went, their most implacable foe was Coligny. 

With the name of Gaspard de Coligny we come to one of 
the thrilling — the morally thrilling — personages of history ; 
to a man of bronze, a man, too, of human flesh and blood; a 
being of unspotted integrity ; a Protestant statesman, a 
child of Israel, who wished to found a new Jerusalem and yet 
remain loyal to the Crown. His brothers were cast in much 
the same metal, but they had neither his initiative nor his 
moral genius. Perhaps the man who came nearest him in 
originality, though neither in force, stability, nor intellect, was 
the Prince de Conde, a person in many ways his opposite in 
character ; Conde, the high-souled buccaneer of the Protestant 
party, the born soldier, noble, restless, ambitious, glad to 
swing his sword in the defence of a principle, yet serving that 
principle with a rather worldly devotion. The Bourbons were 
not strong, like the Chatillons, but Conde's fire almost served 
instead of strength. Unfortunately this was not so with his 
brother, Antoine, who through his marriage with Jeanne 
d'Albret became King of Navarre. " Unstable as water, 
thou shalt not excel," might well have been written upon his 
forehead, and his vacillations between Protestantism and 
orthodoxy were, from the first, an obstacle to the Reforming 
party. Their real difficulties, however, had not yet begun, 
nor had the hour struck for these Huguenot captains to figure as 
the leading actors on the stage and as the symbols of a great idea. 

It was only at the end of Henri's reign that the religious 
question again assumed formidable proportions. We saw 
that earlier in the day he himself became three-quarters of a 
Huguenot of the Puritanical order, loving to sing Marot's 
Psalms and to read the Bible in the vernacular. Politically, 
too, he showed the same colours when, in 1552, he alUed himself 
to the Protestant German princes against the Emperor 
Charles V. But this heretical state of things came to an end 
and orthodoxy reasserted itself. It is true that he always 
thought little of the Pope as a person, but he honoured him as 
the Head of the Church, and this tendency increased under the 
influence of Diane and the Guises. The wars against the 

89 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Emperor and Philip II for a time distracted the King's atten- 
tion from matters of dogma, but after the peace of Cateau- 
Cambresis, when he once more had leisure for thought, religious 
matters again began to absorb him. His attitude was none 
of the most clement ; the years 1558 and 1559 ^^.w bad persecu- 
tions and, considering the power of Diane and her colleagues, 
it is Ukely that worse things would have ensued had not his 
death intervened and put an end to all questionings. 

With Henri IFs foreign relations this book, which is a per- 
sonal record, has but scant concern. Like most monarchs of 
his time, he had a passion for war and was distinguished by 
his military prowess, although he lacked any large military 
conceptions, imperial or otherwise. In the same way he had 
big soldiers — Guise, Montmorency, Brissac, Coligny, Tavannes 
— but no truly great leader ; no one adequate to ' le renard,^^ 
as the Emperor Charles V was called. 

What fighters there were in France had, at all events, plenty 
of work. For seven years of Henri's reign war was practically 
incessant. In 1552, the King allied himself with the German 
Princes and with Maurice of Saxony, their chief, who had 
deserted and betrayed his imperial master. The result of this 
campaign was the famous siege of Metz by the French, and 
their taking of that important place as well as of the fortified 
towns of Toul and Verdun. At the same time Henri had 
declared himself against the Pope in Italy, and his troops were 
fighting there as well as in Germany. His victories in the 
last-named country brought him considerable prestige, but 
the Emperor afterwards revenged himself on certain French 
cities in the Netherlands, and the war went on smouldering 
till the signing of the Peace of Vaucelles, in 1556. That same 
year, Charles V retired to his monastery of Yuste, leaving the 
imperial crown of Austria to his brother Ferdinand, and the 
realm of Spain, together with his possessions in Italy and the 
Netherlands, to his son, Philip II. Philip at once allied him- 
self to England by his marriage with Mary Tudor ; and the 
French saw with dismay that, with Protestant Britain only 
divided by a short sea-passage from the Protestant Nether- 
lands, he had a powerful kingdom in the North as well as in the 
South of Europe. To prevent the establishment of his Northern 
rule, the French king broke the Peace at the end of the same 
year in which it had been inaugurated, and he sent the Due 
de Guise against Alva in Italy and Montmorency against 
Emmanuel Philibert in the Netherlands. The result was 

90 



THE COURT OF HENRI II 

disastrous in both regions. The French army was defeated 
near Civitella and, more signally, in Flanders, at the siege of 
St. Quentin (1557). The Duke of Savoy was besieging that 
town and Coligny, hard pressed, was inside it, when Mont- 
morency, by an ill-advised movement, tried to come to his 
aid and brought his inadequate forces into contact with the 
enemy. He suffered total defeat and was taken prisoner 
with several other princes. Philip had Paris before him ; 
but he did not follow up his advantage, and, while he dallied, 
the Due de Guise was recalled from Italy, was made Lieu- 
tenant-General of the French army and at once retrieved the 
French fortunes. For, by a skilful stratagem, he diverted his 
adversaries to Luxembourg and himself recaptured Calais — 
a master-stroke of brilliant tactics. This was in 1558 ; and in 
that year was signed the Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis, a 
treaty which was always considered an indignity to France. 
As it was said to be the work of Diane de Poitiers, perhaps this 
can hardly be wondered at. True, it assured to the French 
the possession of Toul, Verdun and Metz, as well as of Calais 
and Boulogne ; but it also compelled her to barter 189 impor- 
tant places in Italy and the Netherlands against some insigni- 
ficant Spanish possessions. " Sire'' said Guise and Brissac 
to the King, " you give away in twenty-four hours what 
thirty years of reverses would not have taken from you." 
Perhaps Henri II consoled himself by thinking of the two 
royal marriages which were also part of the agreement — that 
of his sister Marguerite de Berri to the Duke of Savoy and of 
his little daughter, Elizabeth to Philip of Spain. 

Bare outline though this be, it is enough for our present pur- 
pose, our business being not with military matters, excepting 
in so far as events affected Henri's life and that of Catherine. 
And amongst these there are two, already alluded to, which 
altered their relative positions. The first of these was the 
royal decision concerning his wife's Regency during his absence 
on the German campaign. It would have been the natural 
thing to leave Catherine as sole Regent during his absence. 
Francois I had thus empowered his mother, Louise de Savoie 
while he was away in the field, and after such a precedent any 
other arrangement amounted to an insult. In spite of which, 
as we have seen the King at Diane's instigation decreed that 
the Chancellor, Bertrandi, no especial friend of the Queen's, 
should be fellow-Regent with her, thus practically annulling 
any power to act freely on her part. No deed more firmly 

91 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

established the power of the Guises, or so much lowered 
Catherine in the eyes of the people. Had she had sway over 
them then, when it was important to her to gain popularity, 
she might have made a position for herself which would have 
changed their later attitude towards her. And this privation 
must have been the more galling as she was peculiarly fitted 
for the Regency and had served a serious apprenticeship in 
matters of the State, taking great pains to study its require- 
ments both in peace and in war. " I assure you " — she writes 
(alluding to the provisioning of the army) — " that I have 
become a past-mistress therein." And I shall not spare 
any trouble till I know enough to please the King." The 
woman who thus expressed herself should have had full re- 
sponsibility given her. 

Her humiliated pride must, however, have been partially 
restored by the role that she played after the siege of St. 
Quentin. The new^s of this unexpected and unnecessary 
defeat flew on swift wings to Paris, and the town gave itself 
up to panic and showed signs of rioting, Catherine saw that the 
one thing to do was to stop the disturbance and to get from 
the State the funds necessary for continuing the war. She 
lost no time in proceeding to the Parlement and demanding 
300,000 livres in all, 25,000 livres of which she asked for at 
once ; after which, with consummate tact, she offered to 
retire so that her presence might not trammel the debate. The 
speedy result was a vote for a sum exceeding her request and 
a great sensation throughout the city. The King himself was 
more impressed by her because of this achievement than he 
had been throughout their marriage, and he showed it in his 
behaviour. For it was from this day, as has been told, that he 
changed his habit of giving the evening to Diane and spent it 
with Catherine instead. Nor is it without significance that 
now, for the first time, Fran9ois Clouet struck a medal with 
the King's head on one side and that of the Queen on the 
other — a venture that could not have been made before this 
signal success of hers. She did not win Henri's love, but she 
had at least gained his respect. 

What fruit all this might have borne for her will never be 
known, for before two years were over Henri's life was cut 
short. These last months of his existence were taken up with 
royal weddings. In 1558, Mary Stuart was married to the 
Dauphin ; and in 1559 — ^s had been agreed in the Treaty of 
Cateau-Cambresis — Marguerite of Berri was wedded to Em- 

92 



THE COURT OF HENRI II 

manuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy, and Princess Elizabeth of 
France to Philip II of Spain. 

The marriage of Mary Stuart is one of the most picturesque 
on record, and it made so typical a pageant that to describe it 
is to describe the Renaissance. Great preparations went for- 
ward for it. A theatre was erected on the " Parvis," or Pave- 
ment in front of Notre Dame, and here a crowd of Princes, 
Bishops, grandees of all sorts, assembled ; so did a multitude 
of minstrels, with their flutes and their viols and their citherns. 
Through their midst to the great West door came the bride, a 
shining dream of April charms : " For she was clad in a white 
garment, like unto a lily, fashioned so richly and so sumptu- 
ously that none can imagine it. And two young maidens bore 
up the train thereof, which was of a marvellous length. From 
her neck there hung a circlet of untold worth, made of fiery 
stones . . . and on her head she wore a golden crown studded 
with pearls and diamonds, with rubies, sapphires and emeralds 
. . . but above all others, in its midst there glowed a great 
carbuncle." The Dauphin met her and there, outside the 
church, gave the wedding-ring to the Cardinal de Bourbon 
who married them where they stood. The square was packed ; 
the Heralds, according to their custom, cried " Largesse " 
three times over ; the mob scrambled for the coin till some 
fainted, and some lost their cloaks and hats, and the people 
themselves implored the Heralds to stop throwing money. 
And all the while the Dukes and Lords marched along the high 
scaffolding into Notre Dame, where the Archbishop celebrated 
Mass and the wedded pair sat upon a throne beneath a canopy 
of cloth of gold. Then back to the Bishop's Palace, where a 
gorgeous ball and banquet agreeably symbolised the union of 
the powers temporal and spiritual. " The very Christian 
King danced with the Queen-Dauphine, and the King-Dauphin 
danced with the Queen, his mother, and the Prince de Conde 
with Madame Marguerite, the King's sister ; and there were 
present divers other princes and princesses robed in golden 
tissue . . . decked out with such magnificence that the 
Elysian Fields could not have been more lovely." These 
fascinating revels lasted till the reasonable hour of five in the 
afternoon, after which supper was served at tables of white 
marble, surrounded by officers of the Parlement in their robes 
of vivid scarlet. The meal seems to have had rather an ex- 
hilarating effect, for after it " the matrons and the maids 
leaped in the air for joy," and then settled down to the absurd 

93 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

" balades ei momeries " which ended this extravagant day. 
These would be tedious to read of were not they so charac- 
teristic. Into the hall there cantered pretence horses, which 
were ridden by princely children and drew coaches full of 
pilgrims clad from head to foot in silver tissue and jewels, 
" the which sang melodiously and in all perfection to their instru- 
ments many sweet hymns and psalms in praise of marriage and 
the married pair." The pilgrims having taken themselves off 
with their costly paraphernalia, a fleet of ships came into sight, 
rolling forwards and backwards, as if on a real sea. Each 
gentleman of the crew chose a lady and sailed away with her — 
the King of Navarre, to every one's surprise, carrying off none 
other than his wife. "And no one knew" (concludes the 
chronicler) *' whether the torches or the jewels gave the most 
light." 

It seems abrupt to go straight from a pageant of life to one 
of death, from a royal ball to a royal funeral, but it is not 
abrupter than reality. The year after Mary Stuart's marriage, 
took place the weddings of Marguerite, Henri's sister, and 
Elizabeth, his thirteen-year-old daughter. The shows were 
as splendid as they had been twelve months earlier and lasted 
some days after the ceremonies. The finest of these festivities 
was to be a Joust, in which the King was to take part in the 
presence of all the great guests who had flocked to Paris for 
the marriages. The day (it was in midsummer) arrived. The 
night before, Catherine had dreamed that her husband had 
lost his eye, but she paid no heed to the omen. The lists were 
ready, the " gilded youth " of France had assembled, and " it 
was a boastful thing to see the magnificence of four Queens 
met together in this city." As the King and his adversary, 
Montgomery, advanced on their horses, a boy in an upper 
gallery leaned forward and cried out loudly, " Sire, do not 
fight ! " but he was summarily repressed, nor did he himself 
know why he had spoken. The fighting began ; the King and 
his foe had several rounds and Henri was always victorious. 
At last he sent word to Catherine that " he would try one more 
bout for the love of her," a wonderful message for her to get 
when we remember that it was his last. Once again the King 
and Montgomery set to — once again Montgomery made a 
thrust with his lance ; but this time it struck home, and Henri 
sank to the ground with the blade in his eye. The audience 
recoiled in horror ; there was a general cry, a general rush, 
and the King was borne out from the lists to the Palace of 

94 




Marguerite de Vai.oi.s, Duchksse de Savoib. 

BY FKAX90IS CI-OUF.T. BIBLIOTHKQUE NATIOKALK. 

l^rojti a photograph by A. Gtraudon. 



THE COURT OF HENRI H 

les Tournelles hard by. There was no hope from the first, 
I and he died ten days afterwards. 

Montgomery was a Protestant and the suspicion of de- 
hberate assassination fell upon him. Whether this was 
founded, or no, has never been proved, but Madame Mar- 
guerite, Henri's only sister, "felt a great anger towards him, for 
her brother and she loved one another dearly." Catherine, 
meanwhile, was prostrate with a profound grief. Yet her 
grief was not so strong as her hate. Before the breath was 
out of her husband's body, she had sent messengers to Diane's 
palace to command her to return the crown- jewels and the 
thousand presents that Henri had sent her, each one of which 
stood recorded on the tablets of the Queen's remorseless memory. 
When all was over, she ordered her rival to leave Paris and to 
hide her head at Anet. Diane lingered ten days in the hope 
of some assistance being offered her, but none came and she 
was forced to [go. Nor was this the only bitter draught she 
had to swallow ; Anet was left to her, but Chenonceaux, her 
dearly-loved Chenonceaux, was taken by the Queen, who com- 
pelled her to exchange it for Chaumont. If Catherine had 
made no figure as a royal wife, she figured sufficiently as a 
royal widow. 

The details of her vengeance were only gradually carried 
into execution. For the first day after the King died she 
remained prone on the ground by his bedside, dazed by her 
sudden sorrow. " She is so unhappy still," wrote Mary 
Stuart to her mother some days later, " and is plunged in 
such grief for the loss of the late King, that I fear her misery 
will give her a bad illness." And this was the impression she 
made on others. When the Venetian ambassador paid her a 
State visit of condolence, he found her surrounded by sable 
hangings. The walls and the floor of her apartment were 
covered with black, and so were her vast bed and the High 
Altar, both standing there: the whole unlightened save by 
two wax tapers, which burned dimly in the general gloom. 
The Queen, wrapped in a veil from head to foot, wore an 
austere black dress, the effect deepened by the ermine collar 
round her neck. Beside her stood her daughters and her 
sister-in-law, and near them the slender Mary Stuart, all of 
them robed in white and making a daylight in the darkness, 
Catherine thanked the envoys for their sympathy in her name 
and that of those surrounding her ; but her voice was so weak 
and so stifled with emotion that no one could hear what she said. 

95 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

There is always a good deal of showy conventionality about 
the mourning of sovereigns, but the black that Catherine wore 
from this day onwards, and the motto, " lachrymce hinc, hinc 
doloVy^ which she henceforth adopted, were no pretence on 
her part. Perhaps we are the readier to believe her, because 
in other ways she was unconventional. It had hitherto been 
the custom for a king's widow to remain six weeks in bed 
, . in a darkened room, seeing no one beyond her family and 
^ attendants ; but Catherine broke the tradition and, soon 

yWf^ after her loss, accompanied her son, now Chad^s IX, to 

^ Saint-Germain. 

There were in any case enough ceremonies to go through, 
for there was no end to the pomps and vanities that surrounded 
a monarch's death. In the first place, the embalmed body 
lay for eighteen days in an upper room, before it was borne to 
a State bed in the Salle (Thonneur, which was hung with fresh 
tapestries for the occasion. Here it abode for six more days, 
the King's waxen effigy, sumptuously clad, beneath it. The 
nobles entered one by one to sprinkle holy water on the corpse, 
and Mass was celebrated daily at various resplendent altars. 
Daily, too, His Majesty's dinner was served in the room as 
usual, the grandees waiting round the empty table, after which 
ghostly ceremony the meat was given to the poor. Twenty- 
four days being now over, the body was again moved on a high 
scaffolding to the next room, the Salle de Deiiil — a vast hall 
of darkness hung with black, the light shut out by thick black 
curtains. And here, among the shadows of death, the great 
prelates met next day for High Mass and received the new 
King from Saint-Germain, in his mourning mantle of purple 
sown with gold fieurs-de-lys. The reception was monotonous 
in its solemnities. When it was at last over the young King 
stepped forward to sprinkle holy water on his father's form, 
followed first by his brothers, then by all the princes and 
peers, and last (two days later) by a throng of Government 
officials. Presidents, Provosts, and Judges. The traditional 
thirty days had now come to an end and the dead King was 
carried to Notre Dame in the midst of a winding procession 
— a shifting mass of gold and purple and scarlet against a 
black background — stopping in the cathedral for the Requiem 
(and also for the mourning princes' dinner hard by) ; filing out 
and onwards to St. Ladre, and thence again to St. Denis. 
Funeral orations were in plenty, but we cannot help a feeling 
of relief when we read that the King who was no more, vet 

96 



THE COURT OF HENRI H 

was still trammelled by etiquette, was at length taken to his 
quiet grave. At one end sat the Cardinal de Lorraine, at the 
other the Connetable de Montmorency, dominating the situation 
to the end. Then there sounded a cry of " Rois d'armes, 
venez faire voire office f' and the Knights-at-arms and the heralds 
advanced slowly, bowing low to the open grave and taking 
off their hats and breastplates which they laid within it. The 
flags and spears of other officers, handed to the Rois d'armes, 
were put beside the armour ; the Maitres d' Hotel followed 
with their batons, which they themselves dropped into the 
trench ; and the Crown and the Main-de- Justice made up the 
sum of the funeral offerings. The Constable rose from his 
seat, and ''Le Roi est mortf' he called out ; the " Rois d'armes" 
next took three steps and shouted, " Le Roi est mort ; priez 
Dieu tous pour son dme ! " Whereat the surging crowd knelt 
down and prayed " for the space of three Paternosters," after 
which the Constable withdrew his baton from the grave. " Vive 
le Roi!'' he cried; ''Vive le Roi!"" repeated the Rois d'armes 
and the princes ; there was a sudden burst of music from 
drums and from fifes, and Henri II was left to sleep in peace. 

For his heart, which was embalmed, there was a separate 
funeral. In the Louvre we may still see the elegant and 
mundane urn which the great Germain Pilon made for it to 
rest in. The three Graces — rather Parisian Graces with a 
head-dress half classical, half Valois — stand in a ring with 
their backs to the urn and hold it lightly poised upon their 
shoulders. There is no hint that they are bearing a burden ; 
they seem rather to be on the point of dancing : dancing, may- 
be, down the trimmed alleys of French history with the heart 
of Henri II. But they evidently have no idea that it is a 
human heart which they carry — something which has suffered 
and enjoyed and moved to a disturbing measure. Or do 
they know what it is supposed to be and do they doubt if the 
legend be true ? Perhaps it is our fancy that their prudent 
lips smile and their eyes turn from us with a question. Are 
they looking at their neighbour Diane, as she lies, not far off, 
in cool marble repose, and is it from her they seek an answer ? 
She remains enigmatic and silent in the large halls of the 
Louvre. 



97 H 



BOOK II 

Catherine and the Reformation 

CHAPTER V 

The Reign of Francois II 



99 



AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 

Sur le R^gne de Fran9ois II — Regnier de la Planche. 
Memoirs de Tavannes. 
Memoirs du Prince de Cond6. iJ^ \ 
Discours de Michel Soriano. 
Lettres de Catherine de' Medici. 
El^onore de Roye — Le Comte Delahorde 
Histoire de France — Michelet. 
Histoire de France — Martin. 
Catherine de Medicis — Capefigue. 

Biographical Introductions to the " Lettres de Catherine de' Medici 
— Le Comte de la FerriSre. 



100 



CHAPTER V 

The Reign of Fran9ois II 

CATHERINE had now achieved the desire of her heart 
and had practically attained the Regency. For though 
Fran9ois was sixteen years old and had therefore passed his 
majority, he never even played the part of King. 

Heavy and indolent, he had no wish to do so and he inau- 
gurated his reign by a formal address to his subjects bidding 
them obey his mother in all things. " This being the good 
pleasure of my Lady-Mother and I also approving of every 
opinion that she holdeth " — so runs the formula that he or- 
dered to be used in state-documents. 

Catherine knew well the feeble instrument on which she 
played and understood how to use her son as a buffer when she 
found herself in straits between the Guises and the Bourbons. 
She was fully aware that the Kingdom could get not on without 
her. " I believe," wrote the astute Mary Stuart to her mother, 
" that if her son, the King, were not so obedient to her that 
he does nothing except what she wishes, she would soon die, 
which would be the greatest disaster that could possibly 
happen to this poor country and to all of us." For some 
time the Queen Mother imagined that if she flattered the 
Guises enough she could keep them as her tools. She allowed 
Frangois to issue another statement in which he commanded 
obedience to the Duke and the Cardinal, and gave to the former 
all the military, to the latter all the administrative honours of 
the realm. When his father's old servant and master, the 
Connetable de Montmorency, duly presented himself in the 
Louvre, followed by his nephews, the Chatillons, the new King 
taking the Seals from his hand cut short his profession of 
allegiance. " We are anxious," said Francois, " to solace 
thine old age, which is no longer fit to endure the toils and 
hardships of my service." After which the monarch pro- 
posed to relieve his faithful follower of the Seals and other 
offices which his ministers, the already hard-worked Guises, 

lOI 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

had consented to accept ; but he begged him to retain his 
place in the Privy Council. This the outraged Prince refused 
to do. " Being old and half in my dotage," he ironically said, 
" my counsel can be of little or no use to you ; though if some 
business should arise in which my presence were needful, I 
would give you my life and my estate." Whereupon he left 
the King and sought out the Queen-Regent, to whom he re- 
peated what he had just said. But she received him very 
differently, covering him with reproaches for his former hos- 
tility to her and for the slanders that he had uttered, nor 
would she listen when he refuted her charges. The source of 
his disgrace was clear enough to him now and he had no alter- 
native but to retire. Retire he did to Chantilly, " but with 
such a retinue that the King's train seemed small in comparison, 
concerning which the Princes of Guise conceived a great 
jealousy." Pomps and vanities were, however, poor con- 
solation for loss of power and when the title of " Grand Mai- 
tre," the highest in the kingdom, was taken from his son to 
whom it had been promised and given to the Due de Guise, 
his cup of bitterness was full. Nor did this same son's ap- 
pointment as Grand-Marshal bring any balm to the Constable ; 
it did not restore his position, which indeed seemed hardly 
better than that of Diane de Poitiers. But there was this 
difference between the two dethroned sovereigns — Mont- 
morency had vengeance in his hands. It was short-sighted 
of Catherine not to see that his alliance with her and the Guises 
could alone consolidate her power. She was making a dan- 
gerous foe : for although he was deprived of office, he could 
still throw in his lot with the Bourbon Princes and the Pro- 
testants, and become a factor in the Opposition. 

With the Opposition Catherine had begun by dallying. 
For some time she counted the strings to her bow and was 
uncertain whether the Guise or Bourbon string would best 
suit her designs. If she chose the Guises, her sway, as she 
foresaw, would run great risks from their tyranny, yet, if she 
chose the Bourbons, she would have the awful Guises against 
her. Had Antoine de Navarre obeyed the Constable's sum- 
mons, sent before the death of Henri II ; had that shifty 
Prince been capable of prompt action and immediately ap- 
peared at Court, things might have been different. Mean- 
while, it was upon the Guises that her choice finally fell and 
she trusted to her own craftiness to outwit their despotic 
ambition. Besides, in exalting them thus she made them her 

102 




Antoine dk Bourbox, Roi I)K Navarre. 

BY FRAXgorS CI.OUF.r. CHAIEAU l)E CHANTII.I.V. 

Front a photogra/'Ji by A. Girandon. 



<^ 



\ 



THE REIGN OF FRANQOIS II 

debtors, and she knew them to be so daring that there was 
nothing they would not attempt at her bidding. " For the 
rest, she judged wisely that supposing she caused discontent 
or disturbance by any enterprise of her own, the blame would 
be thrown rather on them than on her." She lost no time in 
making the Bourbons feel her decision. The Prince de Conde 
was sent on a safe foreign mission which removed him from 
perilous plottings. As for the King of Navarre, he lost many 
days in wondering whether or not he should visit the Court, 
many more in preparing a boastful train. When at last he 
set forth it was too late. The Guises had got hold of two of 
his followers who persuaded him that temporizing was his best 
course. Spain, they said, was spying upon his actions ; cau- 
tion was the wisest policy towards France ; he should go to 
Court, certainly, but only with a few followers. Their advice 
was taken and he started in humble guise. It was largely on 
behalf of his Protestant subjects that this so-called Protestant 
monarch was supposed to be undertaking the expedition and 
many were the promises he made them before his final de- 
parture. 

The King of France was at that moment at Saint-Germain. 
It was his custom, when an honoured guest arrived, to meet 
him as if by chance, out hunting. But on the day of Antoine's 
coming Francois IPs sport took him and his companion, the 
Cardinal, in another direction and when the King of 
Navarre arrived unescorted at the palace, it was only 
to find that no apartments had been prepared for him — a 
Prince of the blood. The Marechal St. Andre eventually gave 
him his room, and his suite found lodgings in the village. But 
insults were not at an end. When he entered the audience- 
chamber, the King stood still without advancing to meet him ; 
so did the Cardinal, Antoine's inferior in rank. He embraced 
both without any sign from either, nor did they even invite 
him to take part in the Privy Council. He was, as Catherine 
remarked, " reduced to the position of a chamber-maid," and 
had to pocket the oifence as best he might. Antoine de 
Navarre had no dignity. His only resource was to play toady 
to the Guises till, finding there was no more to be got, he threw 
up the game and retired defeated to Navarre without ful- 
filling a word of his promises to the Huguenots. Their dis- 
appointment was not without importance and doubtless 
counted for something in the religious troubles that were 
soon to convulse the kingdom. 

103 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Meanwhile, the Cardinal de Lorraine was, if possible, more 
potent and worse hated than heretofore. The measure of 
popular likes and dislikes is generally to be found in the current 
lampoons, and these were not wanting in his case. The suave 
and remorseless prelate, the politic dilettante, was meet food 
for the satirist's pen. 

On voit mathematiciens, 
Les plus doctes musiciens, 
Menestriers et sonneurs de luths 
Se donner k un Carolus. 

Si vous voulez, sans oiseleurs, 

Des oiseaux de toutes couleurs, 

Prendre bien mieux qu'avec la glus : 

II ne vous faut qu'un Carolus. 

***** 

Les inventeurs de tous malheurs, 
Les larrons et plus grands voleurs, 
Et les gens les plus dissolus, 
Sont maintenus d'un Carolus. 

So runs a topical song of the day. The making of anagrams, 
too, was a favourite game of the Renaissance— imitated, says 
a chronicler, from the Greeks — and those on his name aboun- 
ded. The letters in " Charles de Lorraine " lent themselves to 
many an abusive epithet : " Hardi larron se cele " (A bold 
thief hides himself) ; " Renard lasche le roi ! " (Fox let go of 
the King!); " Racle k I'or de Henri" (Raked up from 
the gold of Henri), and the like. " Carolus," indeed, lived in 
continual dread of assassination, the more so that a violent 
death had been prophesied to him. Some of the consequences 
of his panic were strange and would have pleased the philo- 
sopher of " Sartor Resartus." The cloaks of that moment 
were wide, the boots immense — excellent hiding-places for 
weapons. But the mode suddenly changed and cloaks and 
boots shrank perceptibly. One omnipotent Mttle Prince's fear 
of death had transformed the ruling fashions. It would have 
been well had he stopped here. But he had induced Catherine 
to write and beg Philip II for his protection — the first of a 
series of such treacherous appeals — thus giving Spain a mis- 
chievous footing in France. And he had vowed to Alva and to 
the Duke of Savoy that he would wage war against the Pro- 
testants, a promise which he kept. He filled the prisons and 
kept the hangman busy. " It is impossible that this should 
go on longer ..." writes Hubert Languet, the most temperate 
of Protestants — " the Cardinal of Lorraine is abandoned by 

104 



THE REIGN OF FRANQOIS II 

many of his own side who dread future events." The bad 
harvest of 1560 and the acute want that ensued enhanced 
both the general discontent and the feehng against the inactive 
priests. Converts to Protestantism increased, and though the 
Cardinal had apparently suppressed the Protestant Church in 
Paris, he could not suppress the idea that gave it birth. He 
had yet to learn that authority is not the same as enduring 
power. 

The match that set light to the faggots was the trial of 
Anne du Bourg, a Councillor of the Parlement. In that 
institution there had recently grown up a little party of so- 
called " Politiques," or " Moderates "—a band of cultivated 
men and earnest thinkers who inclined towards the " New 
Opinions." These Girondins of Protestantism, though they 
made no violent demonstration, were gradually extending 
their influence and were a stumbling-block to orthodox people. 
If the Parlement were to become a centre of heresy the peril 
would be extreme, and the Parlement therefore it was that 
the Cardinal resolved first to purify. His zeal only waited for 
the next person it could lay hands on. This was Anne du 
Bourg, one of the chief " Moderates," an ardent, book-loving 
man, who no doubt cherished heterodox views but was ac- 
tually arrested on a false and insufficient accusation. His 
first trial was indecisive and he made an appeal which would 
have probably succeeded ; but the ill-advised Huguenots 
chose this moment to shoot down an unjust Judge of his, the 
President Menars, and they settled the fate of du Bourg. He 
was summarily condemned to be burned in the Place des 
Greves, a verdict quickly carried out. The Protestants, 
horror-stricken at this unrighteous judgment, read in it the 
Cardinal's intention to root them out and to destroy them. 
The Huguenot plot of Amboise was the direct result. 

There were at this moment in France two parties among the 
Huguenots : "the Huguenots of Religion," who resented the 
persecution by the Catholics, and " the Huguenots of State," 
whose first motive was hostility to the Guises and loyalty to the 
Bourbon Princes. These political Protestants again split 
into two factions : that of the Monarchists — associated with 
Elizabeth of England — which wished to depose Francois II 
and put the Prince de Conde in his place ; and the subversive 
democratic faction, which wanted to depose the King and set 
up a Republic, the true Calvinistic ideal, symbolized by their 
seal which was graven with a broken crown. Both groups 

105 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

united in their resolution to invalidate the Guises and Cather- 
ine de' Medici, whose children they declared to be illegitimate ; 
and both, too, agreed to hand over Mary Stuart to the Scotch 
Covenanters. But these were secret aims. Publicly they only 
dared demand the dismissal of the Guises, the just distribution 
of offices and the convocation of the States-General — all three 
requests made, so they said, in the true interests of the Crown. 

With these Huguenots, and especially with the more tem- 
perate among them, Catherine at first showed a good deal of 
sympathy. " When I see these poor folk burnt, bruised and 
tormented, not for thieving and marauding but simply for 
upholding their own opinions ; when I see some of them suffer 
cheerfully, with a glad heart, I am moved to believe that there 
is something in this which transcendeth human reason." 

So she wrote to Madame de Mailly, one of her Protestant 
ladies. There were others at her Court — Madame de Crussol, 
Mademoiselle de Goguier and the Duchesse de Montpensier — 
and the Protestants had reason to hope much from her. When 
she was on her way to the King's Coronation at Rheims, 
Coligny, Conde and Madame de Mailly begged her to see them. 
Nor did she refuse the interview ; it served her interests to 
learn their secrets, whether as friends or as foes. Madame de 
Mailly was spokeswoman. Catherhie, she said, had promised 
to be her friend. The Protestants looked upon their Queen as 
a second Esther ; should they look in vain ? She implored that 
Esther not to pollute the young King's reign with blood, "for 
that which had been already shed cried loudly to God who 
had avenged it." Catherine took this as an allusion to Henri's 
death. " What do your threats mean ? " she asked : " what 
more can God do to me, since He hath taken from me that 
which I loved and prized the most dearly ? " Then with an 
effort she calmed herself and pledged her word to stop the 
persecutions, provided the Huguenots would live in peace. 
Coligny and Madame de Mailly even made her promise to see 
and to confer with a minister of the Reformed Church. After 
much debate, the Consistory at Paris resolved to send one, 
Chandieu, a great light among them, to meet her at a village 
near Rheims. But when the appointed day came, the Cardinal 
knew well how to prevent her going and the minister kept the 
tryst alone. She found herself helpless in the hands of the 
Guises and, far from ceasing, the persecutions redoubled. 
After du Bourg's execution, the Protestants reminded her of 
her promise and warned her that God's vengeance would come 

1 06 



THE REIGN OF FRANQOIS 11 

upon her. "They threaten me,'Vshe said, "but they have 
not got as far as they think." The more statesmanUke of 
the Huguenots saw the mistake of their fellows. " Those of 
the religion (Ceux de la religion) have exasperated the Queen- 
Mother who sought to moderate all things," so writes Hubert 
Languet, one among them : " They have menaced her with 
God's judgment . . . and she, in her great indignation, treats 
them as scoundrels. . . . Thus it is that our people conduct 
affairs. ..." And thus it was also that the Plot of Amboise 
was conceived. 

The nation was at that moment bound to be the prey of 
such conspiracies. For, apart from internal dissensions, the 
kingdom was sadly unsettled. In spite of all precautions, 
a rumour had gone abroad that the young King was suffering 
from a form of blood-poisoning which was bound to end fatally 
in a few years. The doctors recommended him the mild 
climate of Blois and the Court took up its residence there. 
On this place, therefore, the plotters concentrated their ener- 
gies. There was to be a general military rising all over France 
and, at a given signal, troops from every direction were to 
march on the town of Blois, to seize the persons of the King, 
his mother, and his brothers, to send away the Guises and to 
convoke the States-General. If the King refused to become a 
Protestant, another King was to be set up in his stead. The 
nominal leader in this business was a certain Sieur de la Re- 
naudie who had a private grudge against the Guises. He 
rallied the Huguenots of Strasburg, he got the help of German 
mercenaries ; but, for all that, he was only a chief in name. The 
real heads were the prince de Conde and, secondarily, Antoine 
de Navarre, to whom La Renaudie had letters of introduction. 
It is true that to all seeming they promised him nothing ; but 
none the less were they the mainsprings of the affair. Louis 
Prince de Conde, the would-be Louis XIII, was a man of 
nimble wit. He and his uncles by marriage, Coligny and 
d'Andelot, were in correspondence with Elizabeth, with the 
Scotch Covenanters, with the Flemish Anabaptists and the 
Swiss Calvinists, with every Nonconformist in Europe. Help 
was promised on all sides. Calvin alone refused to countenance 
a scheme so ill-advised, but, except for this, all was auspicious. 

The plan was lucid enough, but it was too widespread to 
succeed. The English Catholics got wind of it and betrayed 
it to the Dluc de Guise ; La Renaudie too and his German 
colleague, the Jurisconsult, Francis Hotman, had allowed 

107 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

their tongues to be indiscreet ; and the Moderates of the Par- 
lement, who thought that violence would ruin the chances of 
Reform, were not behindhand in hinting that something was on 
foot. Catherine was as usual applied to in this strait, and 
as usual showed crafty resource. She summoned Coligny 
to come to her at once on the fictitious pretext that the English 
were about to attack some French ships, knowing that such a 
call would bring her loyal servant directly to her side. When 
he arrived, she put off the Queen and played the lonely woman. 
She begged for his advice ; she entreated him not to desert the 
King. He replied that the Guises, who were " hated like the 
pest," were alone to blame for the bad state of the kingdom 
and he assured her that the only remedy would be an Edict of 
Tolerance. Catherine lost no time in passing a decree which 
forbade the persecution of Protestants, allowed them liberty of 
worship, and extended an amnesty to all offenders excepting 
Ministers and such as had plotted against the King, his 
mother, or the Guises. But this was not the moment for a 
temporizing policy and the Due de Guise's presence of mind 
stood the throne in better stead. He promptly removed 
Catherine, King, and Court from the dangers of Blois to the 
security of Amboise. This, at all events, calmed the general 
panic, from which none had suffered more acutely than the 
Cardinal, whose sudden death had been prophesied for 1560. 
But the general gloom did not last long. " In three days they 
have forgotten all their terrors, after having made a great 
disturbance and guarded the Castle closely without budging 
from it. But now the King goes a'hunting again" — So 
wrote Chantonnay, the envoy — the spy — of Philip II. " The 
French are so little persevering," he continues, " that these 
good folk are already beginning to feel ashamed of making 
such a fuss." They had expected an attack on March 6 and 
that date once passed, they felt that all was safe. But on the 
13th, a troop of men was met on the side of Tours and three 
days later more were found in a wood, most of them artizans. 
Some prisoners were taken and brought to Amboise. When 
they arrived, the King was at the window. Tutored no 
doubt by his mother, he only detained three or four and set 
the rest free, with the present of a crown-piece in their pockets. 
But in doing so he asked them why they had come. "To 
speak to the King," they replied, " and beg him to let them 
live according to their religion, for the salvation of their souls, 
or else to do as he willed with them." If they had stopped 

108 



THE REIGN OF FRANgOIS II 

there all might have been well, but the crown-pieces made 
them expansive and they went on to tell his Majesty that they 
had been sent forth from Geneva, that their leaders had prom- 
ised to join them shortly, on a fixed day when all their troops, 
mustering 40,000, would assemble. Search was made round 
about, more men were imprisoned, a band of one hundred 
and fifty came to Amboise and knocked at its great door. 
There was no answer till they retired, when they were hotly 
pursued and one and all taken. After that, skirmishes and 
arrests were continual. Every crenellation of the castle was 
disfigured by the heads of the slain and the conquerors took 
to drowning and beheading their victims. These executions, 
or rather wholesale massacres, went on for a month and were 
witnessed by the cold-hearted Court from a balcony as if they 
had been stage-representations. " Ceux de Guise,'' says a 
Chronicler, *' arranged all this expressly to make some dis- 
traction for the ladies, who were, as they saw, becoming bored 
at staying so long in one place. . . . And what was worse, the 
King and his young brothers appeared at these performances, 
as if the Guises had wished to excite their nerves." Only the 
Duchesse de Guise (Anna d'Este, the child of the Duke of 
Ferrara and his French wife, Ren^e) showed signs of any sus- 
ceptibility. She had been dragged to the dreadful spectacle 
against her wiU and she came to Catherine's room in tears. 
There her sobs redoubled. "What ails you," asked the 
Queen, " that you lament in so strange a fashion ? " "I 
have just seen " — replied the Duchess — " the most piteous 
tragedy — the cruel shedding of innocent blood, the blood of 
the King's loyal subjects. I have not a doubt that in a little 
while a great disaster will fall upon our House." The Guises 
were duly informed of her faint-heartedness and did not forget 
to show it in their rough behaviour to her. Nor did the Prince 
de Conde, then at Amboise, fare much better at the hands of 
his foes, who were always trying to incriminate him. They 
invited him one day to go into the next room and watch a band 
of men being killed — " the which having for a long while re- 
fused, they at length compelled him to look through one of 
the palace windows. Then was his heart pierced with great 
bitterness. * I am amazed,' he cried, ' that the King allows 
himself to be thus advised to take the life of so many honest 
lords and gentlemen . . . when he thinks of the great service 
that they rendered to the late King.' " 

But Francois II was throughout no more than a helpless 

109 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

/ tool, negative even in good intentions and forced to look on at 
I* cruelty which he was too feeble to prevent. "Why do my 
people detest me so ? " almost in tears, he asked the Cardinal. 
Then in a sudden access of anger — " The}'' say it is because 
of you," he cried — " I wish you would go away and then I 
should know which it was that was disliked, you or I." 

Even the Cardinal's own cronies grew to hate and 
dread him. The Chancellor Olivier was almost as bad a man 
as he was. " Go, you have damned us all ! " he cried, when 
the prelate came to visit him upon his death-bed. " Damned, 
damned — he lies, the wicked creature ! " the Due de Guise was 
j heard to mutter later, in an access of superstitious fear. Cath- 
/ erine, too, was forced to do her Minister's will. Sometimes 
she attempted to save a life, " trying everything she could — 
even seeking out these new Kings in their chambers and caress- 
) ing them," but all in vain. One captive, seized with panic 
at the end, sent for the Queen-Mother, who went on foot to his 
dungeon and heard his confession of a Spanish plot. He made 
it, probably falsely, in the hope of a reprieve, though his 
scaffold was already raised and spectators were waiting out- 
side his prison walls ; but he had to do with Catherine de' 
Medici and his last hope was vain. Perhaps the most im- 
pressive of the prisoners was the Baron de Castelnau, a dis- 
tinguished Protestant, who during his mock-trial compelled 
the Cardinal to hold a religious discussion with him. They 
talked long concerning the Eucharist and other matters of 
doctrine, until the Cardinal himself was forced to own his 
eloquence and the reasonableness of what he said. " Re- 
member your brother's answer and that he approved of my 
beliefs," said Castelnau turning to the Duke. " I know 
nothing about disputations," replied Duke Francois, " but I 
fully understand the cutting ofi of heads." And with this 
grim retort Castelnau's fate was sealed. He was followed by a 
throng of fellow-sufferers until the death of Renaudie,who was 
eventually shot in the forest, put the finishing touch to the 
victory of the Catholics and the destruction of the conspirators. 
" Never was enterprise worse conceived, or more stupidly 
carried out," said Calvin. In a letter to Coligny — who had 
asked him to clear himself from wrong imputations — he writes 
that when he was consulted he had told " a certain one " 
what he thought of the scheme : that " it was not founded 
on God ; that even from the worldly point of view it meant 
lightness and presumption ; that it could not bear good fruit ; 

no 



THE REIGN OF FRANgOIS II 

and that if one drop of blood were shed* the rivers all over 
Europe would overflow therewith." The drop was shed : 
St. Bartholomew's Eve was the result. 

vjjieanwhile Catherine found work to her hand. In violent 
crises she was resourceless,but after, as before them, her dallying 
power came into play. She required a man to embody her 
cooling policy of moderation and she found him in Michel 
THopital^who had long been the counsellor of Marguerite of 
Berri and Savoy and had followed her into Piedmont. Calm 
and intellectual, he was more than half a Protestant and was 
wholly an honest man. Catherine now recalled him to France 
and showed her wisdom in consulting him on spiritual affairs. 
He lost no time in publicly declaring his views. " Every 
man hath made a religion for himself," he said in his speech 
before the Parlement — " some for a good end, some from pure 
malice. Others desire that their religion should be accepted 
and the faith of the rest hunted down. The remedy we seek 
proceedeth from a greater source, even from the hand of God — 
by means of a General Council. Till that is arranged we must 
try to deal gently with one another, to invent a modus vivendi. 
For the diseases of the mind are noL cured in the same fashion 
as the diseases of the body." [ The result of his inter- 
vention was the Edict of Romoranlin, which left the handling 
of heretics to the clergy. This was a crafty decree not visibly 
of a Huguenot colour ; but THopital knew full well that the 
hatred of the populace for the clergy would make them, cautious 
in their doings and hold them back from persecution. \ 

Moderation seemed the watchword at Court. The Ordinal 
himself suavely said that he " would give his life to bring these 
poor lost sheep back to the fold," and added that the King 
would no longer take proceedings against the Protestants 
who went to Preches unarmed. And then there was a Council 
at Fontainebleau, held largely to discuss religious matters, 
at which Coligny suddenly rose and presented a petition to His 
Majesty to the effect that two equal Churches, the Catholic 
and the Protestant, might be allowed to exist side by side in the 
realm: "Whereat every one turned round and stared, all 
amazed," and the King, with lowering brows, ordered him to 
return to his place. "Every one " must also have been aston- 
ished at Catherine's speech to the Council. Two-thirds of her 
subjects, she said, were Protestants and so she could not use 

* The italics are those of the present writer. 
Ill 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

the sword to all of them. And she defended Coligny's brother, 
the Cardinal de Chatillon, against the Papal Nuncio, for imita- 
ting the English Ambassador and turning his back to the Altar 
at the elevation of the Host. The Nuncio complained angrily 
to the Cardinal, but the diplomatic prelate replied that, after 
all, it was only natural for a woman to speak more gently than 
a man. The Reformers' influence spread visibly. There were 
Huguenots in Languedoc and Perigord, among the students 
and others ; while Hotman's blatant treatise, *' The Tiger," 
directed against the Cardinal, enjoyed signal success. The only 
thing wanted was an active leader who would escape suspicion, 
and for the moment such an one was found. 

Maligny, Condi's agent, a stirring, practical man, organized 
a plot to seize Lyons ; and this time he got the approval of 
the Protestant Pope, Calvin, as well as of the minister, de 
Beze, who was, so to speak, his Viceroy in France. But the 
plan was again betrayed to the Cardinal, and Conde's servant, La 
Sague, was arrested on a journey to Montmorency and was found 
to have letters upon him incriminating high persons. The 
Vidame de Chartres was suddenly conveyed to the Bastille 
and confessed to his knowledge of a conspiracy. And the 
Constable, much caressed in public, was privately accused of 
other faults than the real one — of betraying the Lyons con- 
spiracy, a charge very far from the truth. The rough, im- 
pulsive old soldier, suspecting it was Catherine who had slandered 
him, sought her out and dared to make a scene with her. She 
confessed to having given evidence against him and his tongue 
did not spare her. She undertook to rule the kingdom, so 
he told her, without knowing anything about it, and achieved 
nothing better than the maintenance of hated ministers. 
Catherine only answered by laughing heartily at " /^ bon tour 
qu'elle avail joue a son compere.^* She knew that she would 
probably need his help when her son died, so she held her hand 
back from vengeance, suavely allowing him to scold her and 
retire in sulks from the Court. 

Meanwhile the Bourbon Princes did not go unimpugned. 
Cond6 was suspected of being implicated in the plots both of 
Amboise and of Lyons. The King of Navarre received a 
royal mandate to bring his brother, who was staying with him, 
to the Court, then resident at Orleans, that he might clear 
himself from these charges. Conde refused to go. The King 
sent persuasive letters, he promised safe escort and a friendly 
reception to the brothers. " I beg of you to come and see the 

112 



( 



r 

^Rner at one 



THE REIGN OF FRANgOIS II 



mg at once, as he wishes it so much," wrote Catherine . . . 
" and I assure you that he and I will do our best to make such 
good cheer for you that you will have no reason to be sorry for 
coming and for joining a company by whom you will be so 
dearly loved and esteemed." Jeanne d'Albret, the astute 
Queen of Navarre, and Princess Eleonore de Roye, the staunch 
wife and comrade of Conde, implored their husbands to stay 
at home — to pay no heed to fair speeches which were certain 
to prove mendacious. But Conde, that man of fiery mettle, 
deemed such hanging back a piece of cowardice and departed, 
carrying his brother with him. Navarre might have known 
what to expect. No welcome met them at the gates and they 
rode in silence to the palace. The Venetian ambassador, 
Michieli, relates how when the Princes arrived in the audience- 
chamber there were immediate signs of their disgrace. Though 
the King of Navarre humbled himself and, contrary to usage, 
knelt on one knee to Francois, that mock-sovereign did not 
move a step towards him and only made a sign that Antoine's 
first obeisance should have been to Catherine. As for Conde, 
no one greeted him or answered his addresses and the King did 
not take the trouble to uncover in his presence. All the great 
nobles were there ; the Guises were lounging against the high 
stone window behind their niece, Mary Stuart, but neither 
Navarre nor Conde spoke to them. Presently the royal per- 
sonages retired into Catherine's privy closet and, after a few 
minutes, Conde was bidden to enter there. No sooner had 
he done so than he was summarily arrested. Antoine de 
Navarre and his other brother, the Cardinal de Bourbon, begged 
to be appointed as his guard, but their request was met with a 
stern refusal. Conde was taken to the prison of Orleans and 
kept in the strictest confinement, beyond the reach of any 
intercourse; and later Catherine moved him to Amboise, 
already haunted by so many ambitious ghosts. " I have come 
back this moniing from my journey to Amboise " (she wrote to 
a friend), " where I have been visiting a little gallant who has 
nothing in his brain but war and tempest. I assure you that 
whoever finds himself there will not get out again without 
leave, for the place is already strong and I have been adding 
to the fortifications. I have also had a good many doors and 
windows walled up and have had strong iron grating put to 
others. I don't think there is a place in the whole of France 
where the prince could be safer or better looked after." 

The matter-of-course grimness of this seems to strike us 

113 I 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

with worse terror than any lurid stage-effect, and as we read 
these dire words, once fresh from a woman's pen, we can almost 
hear the iron snap of fate shutting Conde into his trap. Directly 
after the news of his arrest had reached her, his wife, Eleonore, 
had tearfully parted from her children and set out for Orleans. 
There were hardships to endure, great difficulties to be over- 
come, but at last she entered the city — to find herself helpless 
against destiny. The Guises had so hemmed in the Prince 
that there was no step which she could take. She could get 
no letter, no message to him. In vain she appealed to Ger- 
many, to Elizabeth of England : Conde was condemned to die. 
The execution was to take place upon December lo — there 
was no time to be lost. On every side she found herself im- 
peded by the pitiless Cardinal of Lorraine, who refused even 
now to allow her to see her husband ; but no obstacle could dash 
either her faith or her courage. At last she succeeded in gain- 
ing an audience of the King. She implored him to permit her 
to visit Conde, if only " pour lui donner courage ; " once more 
her entreaty was denied her. The Guises had got thorough 
hold of Francois and did not mean to let their perilous prey 
escape them, though his death meant danger to themselves. 
"No man has ever attacked the royal blood of France without 
finding himself the worse for it," wrote Renee of Ferrara to 
the Duke, but little was the heed that he paid her. The gods, 
however, were against them and shifted the scene. For, as we 
shall see later, the death of the King, four days before the date 
appointed for Conde's punishment, put an end to the scheme 
against him. 

But this is to anticipate matters. In the meantime, Catherine 
was busy making friends with the children of unrighteousness. 
Despite her treachery to Cond6, she won over his brother of 
Navarre and effected some sort of reconciliation between him 
and the Holy See. Her reason was not far to seek. The King 
was growing daily more sickly; the chance of her Regency 
came nearer ; and as the Guises, she knew, would never allow her 
rule, she must have adequate support and she could only get it 
from Antoine. But as long as Conde with his dangerous influence 
was at large she could not be certain of her man, and it was 
to ensure Antoine that she allowed the younger Prince's con- 
finement. While he was safe at Amboise it was easy to bribe 
his elder ; to call him " mon frere ; '* to take his arm and walk 
up and down the " Salle d'Etat " with him, absorbed in agree- 
able conversation ; to make him pledge himself to her when 

114 



THE REIGN OF FRANQOIS II 

the hour came for her to become Regent. She went so far ; 
as to patch up a peace between him and the Guises, with whom 
she continued to keep well, according to her provident custom. 
As for Conde's arrest, she laid it at the door of the poor little ■ 
King whose every word and gesture were the result of her 
dictation ; and while she was indulging in these professions, 
the Prince from the depths of his prison was making futile 
efforts to get a fair hearing and to defend himself before the 
world in a court of law. In vain did he kick against the pricks ; 
the impenetrable walls remained. 

The Guises, with an eye to business, saw that Navarre was \ 
gaining favour. Knowing their woman, they did not then 
try to influence her ; but they had a niece on the throne and 
through Mary Stuart they could get the ear of the King. The 
Cardinal induced Frangois to fall in with an elaborate plot. 
He was to summon Navarre to come unattended to his apart- 
ments where only the Guises and the Marechal de Saint- 
Andre would attend him ; he was next to reproach Antoine 
with the disturbed state of the country and then, as if in a 
sudden fit of rage, was to strike him with a dagger, on which 
the attendant trio would come forth and do the rest. Catherine 
heard of this scheme and, diplomat that she was, entreated 
her son to desist. She went farther and begged her confi- 
dante, the Duchesse de Montpensier, to warn Antoine not to 
respond to His Majesty's next invitation. He obeyed her 
injunctions and refused the royal mandate, but when the 
first was followed by a second one his courage was touched 
and he felt he could no longer keep away. He certainly knew 
what he was facing ; for he called his favourite valet-de- 
chambre and made him vow that if his master were murdered 
he would straightway carry his shirt, with the bloodstains upon 
it, to his wife, the Queen of Navarre. Then he went to seek 
the King. When he entered the room, the Cardinal shut the 
door carefully behind him. Francois was standing behind the 
table in a loose robe, with a dagger in his girdle. Navarre, 
prepared for danger, behaved with such humility that the King 
could open no dispute with him. Francois' heart failed him at 
this eleventh hour and he allowed Navarre to leave his presence 
unharmed. " Voild le plus poltron coeur qui fut jamais , ' theangry 
Cardinal was heard to ejaculate, but he ejaculated in vain. 
He was not strong enough to weigh against Catherine in her 
son's counsels. It was she herself who told his wife, Jeanne 
d'Albret, the story of how she thus saved Antoine's life, and 

115 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

it was Jeanne who published the episode in a manifesto of 1568. 
What might have happened later history does not tell, for 
the King's fatal illness at that moment changed the face of 
affairs. The doctor's prophecy was fulfilled rather sooner than 
they expected and it speedily became evident that His Majesty 
could not recover. The Guises were distraught with fear. No 
tyranny of theirs could do away with the fact that the Bourbon 
Princes were, after the royal children, nearest to the Crown 
and that any popular rising, such as happens when things are 
unsettled, would probably put one of them on the throne. In 
this strait, the Guises tried to persuade Catherine that her own 
security demanded the assassination of the Bourbons, but her 
good sense, supported by Michel de FHopital, was against 
the plotters. She knew too well how profoundly they were 
hated and how she would inevitably become identified with 
them ; so she got rid of them with bland prevarications and 
summoned Antoine de Navarre to her presence. He found 
the Queen-Mother alone with Madame de Montpensier and in 
tears. She dilated on her situation, dwelt on the youth of her 
nine-year old son, Charles, the next heir to the throne, and 
entreated her Bourbon cousin to renounce his claims to the 
Regency in her favour. If he did so, he should be Lieutenant- 
General and all edicts should be published in their joint names. 
If he did not, she would certainly join the side of the Guises. 
Antoine, warned by Madame de Montpensier that non-com- 
pliance meant his death and that of his brother, weakly did as 
he was bidden and so gave a blow, not only to his dignity, 
but to the cause of Protestantism in France. Catherine, well 
pleased with the effect of her tears, now re-called Montmorency. 
She plied the Guises with bitter honey and told Spain that " for 
the sake of religion " it was essential that a woman should be 
Regent ; she kept her irons ready in the fire and, with every 
faculty alert, awaited the death of her son. 

She only had a few days in which to exercise patience ; 
Francois II died unloved and unhated on December 6, 1560. 
The Cardinal was by his bedside, overshadowing him to the end. 
He had never let him alone, nor did he do so at this solemn hour. 
In the tone that had ever been obeyed he dictated the boy's 
last prayer to him. It was a strange one : " Lord ! pardon my 
sins, and impute not to me, thy servant, the sin committed 
by my Ministers under my name and authority." The words 
are the only suggestion we have that the Cardinal possessed a 
conscience. 

116 



CHAPTER VI 

The Princesse de Conde 



117 



AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 

Memoirs du Prince de Conde. 

Eleonore de Roye — Le Comte Delaborde. 

Sur le R^gne de Fran9ois II — Regnier de la Planche. 

Histoire de I'Eglise Reformee — Theodore de Bdze. 

Femmes lUustres — Brantome, 



\ 



1x8 



CHAPTER VI 

The Princesse de Conde 

THE Queen-Mother did not hesitate to show the colours she 
had chosen. She wrote to Pope Pius IV and urged him 
to remove from the churches the images of the Virgin and the 
Saints, nor did she scruple to make the heretical demand that 
the Communion should be administered in both kinds to the 
laity. The Spanish envoy, Chantonnay, was horrified. " We 
always have a Preche going on in the apartments of some lord 
or lady of the Court, whatever hue and cry I make. The up- 
shot of my inquiries is that no one knows anything of the 
matter, but that enquiry shall be made." 

Catherine took little heed of Chantonnay, who caused her 
to rue the fact afterwards ; and when the Third Estate pre- 
sented her with remonstrances concerning the low morals of 
the clergy, she pledged herself to allow full toleration to the 
Reformed faith throughout France, and even declared that the 
King and the Princes should be brought up as Huguenots. 

Meanwhile, as she had openly aUied herself with her so- 
called convert, Antoine de Navarre, there was no longer any 
reason for his brother's imprisonment. 

Conde had already experienced a moment of relief ; he had 
learned the death of Francois II through the ingenuity of an 
attendant, who, while the prince was at table, made vain 
efforts to signal the news and then had the happy thought of 
dropping something by the prisoner's chair. He whispered 
his tidings as he stooped to pick it up from the ground, and 
his words set the Prince's pulses beating to a quicker tune. 
Soon after, his liberty was offered to him, but he refused to 
accept it until his honour had been publicly vindicated. As 
this request was only answered by half -measures, he chose to 
remain where he was — a high-souled decision, in which his 
wife unflinchingly supported him. In consideration of his 
failing health, however, she persuaded him to exchange his 
rigorous prison for less severe confinement at Ham, where 

119 



CATHERINE DE* MEDICI 

she was allowed to be with him. His sojourn here was not a 
long one. For before much time had elapsed, his wish was 
fulfilled : his honour was cleared in a way that satisfied his 
demands and, free from any stain upon it, he was restored 
to his former position. 

The fresh air must have tasted sweet to him and so did the 
sight of his Httle family. There is a touching contemporary 
account of his first meeting with them. "After ' Paction de 
grace,' they brought him his children, Monsieur the Marquis 
Frangois, and Monsieur and Mademoiselle. " Mademoiselle was 
put upon his bed and Messieurs, his two sons, remained 
standing by him. . . . Suddenly they began to cry so bitterly 
that neither their father nor the people present could restrain 
their own tears. . . . And you ought to have seen the little 
Mademoiselle, who is a living picture of beauty, clinging 
round the neck of Monsieur her father and drowning his face 
and beard with the brooklets from her eyes, without being 
able to speak, excepting in broken half-words. Monsieur her 
father tried so hard that at last he soothed her." 

This tender picture creates a desire to know more of the 
Conde household— of the homes of the other great Protestants. 
Elsewhere in France family affection seems to have died out, 
but in these homes it was still to be found fresh and living, 
and it was they that produced the spiritual flower of the 
country. This, however, only applies to the Huguenot aristocracy. 
For, as in all great revolutions, the people who made this 
religious movement fall under two distinct divisions — those 
that led and those that followed — the cultivated nobles and 
the people. And the results were much the same as in the 
French Revolution. There were the Saint- Justs — men of noble 
theories, blameless lives and stem ideals which made cruelty 
seem better than corruption : Old Testament men, like 
Coligny, ardent patriots, who aimed at an elaborately organised 
religious Republic and dreamed of a Puritan France. There 
were the Dantons, fierce implacable idealists ; or the Robes- 
pierres of thought, the absolutists — like Calvin, and some of 
his subordinates — persons of unflinching logic who forgot that 
human nature was illogical. There were, as we have seen, the 
Girondins, or folk of academic mind ; and (to close with) the 
adventurers, the men of action, the poets, the heroes of romance 
who plunge into any great current because it carries them 
with it, giving them the chance of fresh experience and of 
espousing the cause of the advance-guard. Such men depend 

120 



THE PRINCESSE DE CONDE 

more upon persons than ideas, and their motive is often vanity, 
of however high a strain. They are, as it were, the spoilt 
children — sometimes the enfants terribles — of a great move- 
ment, glorifying and frequently damning it. To this category 
belonged the Prince de Conde, and the glamour that sur- 
rounded him gave him great power with the crowd. 

For below the leaders come the People, a section which 
admits of few fine lights and shades, but nevertheless has its 
differences. For it includes the skilled artizans, thinkers in 
their own rough way, sometimes mystics, like the weavers of 
Meaux, seeking in a spiritual Utopia compensation for the 
hardships of their lives : patient creatures under daily toil, 
but uneducated and uncontrolled, with passions easily roused 
and hard to extinguish. It includes also the unskilled work- 
men and the idlers — the unthinking impressionable rabble 
who are always on the look out for excitement and " see red " 
on the slightest pretext. This is the element in a nation that 
is equally hkely to create a Reign of Terror or a big religious 
revival ; for emotion is a primal and perilous force and, like 
the genius that Sindbad let loose, is not easily lured back to 
its box again. That the French are an emotional people, 
providing emotional leaders for an emotional mob, may have 
helped their artistic glory ; but it has ruined their political 
power, perhaps their religious power also. It is the calm 
leaders who dominate and produce a lasting effect, and it 
would seem that, apart from Coligny, there was no forcible 
man to inspire the troops of the Huguenots. 

But if there were not men, there were women. One re- 
markable fact distinguishes the Reformation in France from 
the Reformation in other countries : that, always excepting 
for the Admiral, its most effectual and distinguished chiefs 
were great ladies. Margaret of Angouleme, the initiator of 
the movement, was the first of a feminine dynasty. The 
precedent that she had set up was followed by her daughter 
Jeanne. For while the King of Navarre was nicknamed 
" TEchangeur," and shifted his position like a weathercock, 
his Queen organized the Huguenot forces and presented a 
front of adamant. And if Conde, who "had the woman in 
him," was the victim of his own gallant vanity, his princess 
filled up his deficiencies. She knew how to assert her cause, 
effecting more things by her being than most people by their 
doing. What her power might have been, had she lived, it is 
not easy to conjecture, for when she was twenty-eight death 

121 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

ended her career ; but even so, she was the soul — 
the exquisite flower — of the stern Huguenot party ; tenderer 
and less ambitious than Jeanne d'Albret ; a saint and yet a 
Stoic too. Jeanne, on the contrary, had nothing of the saint 
and everything of the ruler about her. She was a born general, 
more so, perhaps, than Coligny ; as weighty as he was, and un- 
tiring in her cause as only a woman knows how to be. She 
was capable, too, of rising to any military demands, as her 
conduct during the siege of La Rochelle showed in subsequent 
years. Nor was she the only lady of ambition. As active 
as she, though not so great, was Louis XII's daughter, Renee, 
Duchess of Ferrara, who after the Duke's death left Italy for 
her native France and became there, as at Ferrara, the centre 
of religious intrigue, the politician of her sect, with a hundred 
wires to pull. And these women were no creatures of impulse ; 
they had a consistent policy which they steadily pursued. 
To the affairs of the Reformation they brought the vitality of 
the Renaissance ; nothing came amiss to them and there was 
nothing they did not venture. If we read the diaries of the 
day and follow the imprisonments for heresy, we shall find 
that it was oftenest the women of noble birth who were 
arrested at heretical services for listening to Huguenot 
preachers. These were the heroines of their cause, and the 
weaker sisters of their faith were naturally more numerous. 
It is surprising how many Court ladies who did not commit 
themselves openly were yet inclined to Protestant ideas, some 
of them Catherine's greatest friends : Jacqueline de Longwy, 
Duchesse de Montpensier, the Duchesse de La Rochefoucauld, 
the Princesse de Poitien ; and others with less repute and more 
or less conviction. 

Of all these Eleonore de Roye was the most winning, per- 
haps the most human ; and if we want to get an idea of a well- 
born Huguenot lady, we cannot do better than sketch, how- 
ever roughly, some outline of her and her household ; even 
though in completing it we are bound to anticipate events 
and overstep the limits of strict chronology. 

The grandmother of Eleonore de Roye was Louise de Mont- 
morency, the sister of the Constable, and the wife of Monsieur 
de Chatillon. She belonged to the early days of the " New 
Opinions," the first days of Margaret of Angouleme, when the 
main innovation brought by the religious movement meant 
no more than private study of the Bible, and Scriptural dis- 
cussions with a minister — long before doctrinal heresies had 

122 



THE PRINCESSE DE CONDE 

come to be prominent matters. Already in her youth this 
primitive Protestantism attracted Louise de Montmorency, 
and in this faith she brought up her family — her daughter 
and her three splendid sons : Gaspard the Admiral, Odet the 
Cardinal, and d'Andelot, the soldier and the Puritan. Their 
simple, even stern education in the grim feudal castle, the 
Bible-readings with their mother, her uncompromising ideals 
of conduct, were no bad training for young and impulsive 
beings, and perhaps France never produced a finer race than 
these Chatillons. For their Puritanism only restrained, it 
did not blunt, their feelings. No stronger proof of this could 
be had than a letter of Coligny's to his wife, written in later 
years, after the loss of a child. It was sent from camp, in 
sight of the enemy's army. 

" Although thou art right " (it ran) "to bear with sorrow the 
loss of our dearest son, yet am I constrained to remind thee 
that he belonged more to God than to us. And sith that it 
hath pleased Him to withdraw him to Himself, it is for thee 
and for me to obey His holy Will. True it is that he was 
already a lover of good and that we could expect great con- 
tentment from a son of so fine a strain. But remember, my 
well-beloved, that none can live without offending God, and 
that he is very happy to have died at an age when he was still 
free from all sin." 

The sister of the man who wrote this made a good wife to 
M. de Roye and a good mother to her children ; and we can 
well imagine what a hero the Admiral must have been to the 
little Eleonore and her sister, later Duchesse de La Rochefou- 
cauld. They were brought up in much the same way as their 
mother had been before them, with perhaps something more 
of sweetneSvS — a sober sweetness — in their training. But they 
had few pleasures ; spiritual privileges were substituted for 
them in their young and serious lives. Grave ministers gave 
them pious instruction, and their mother's tenderness and the 
gaiety of Nature were the only indulgences they knew. Such 
an existence kept them fresh. Sincerity was their watch- 
word, or rather the atmosphere they breathed ; and a kind of 
limpid sincerity was always Eleonore's distinction. It was 
small wonder that she fell in love with the frank and generous 
Conde, whose very weaknesses were just such as needed her 
strength. For a long time her love, intense and faithful to 
the end, was equally returned by him, and, in spite of later 
infidelities, he always returned to her side and relied on her 

123 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

constant friendship. But the days that are good to read of 
are the early days of their marriage, before Isabelle de Limeuil 
and Madame de St. Andre had appeared to destroy illusions. 
Conde, the man of Courts, must have enjoyed teaching the 
ways of the world to this most unworldly princess. He was 
gay, too, and he was gallant, an adept at making love, and he 
taught his sober bride how to laugh. 

As we read contemporary accoimts of him, the man rises 
vividly before us : a creature of quick sympathies, something 
of a chameleon, with the very qualities that first fascinate 
and then prove a man's ruin. He was, indeed, a mixture of 
Cavalier and Puritan, of gravity and sparkle, such as only 
France could produce. Vivid rather than deep, he had none 
of the fanatic and something of the knight-errant about him. 
Like his brother, he wanted ballast, but in him a certain mettle 
often took the place of stability. And whatever else he may 
have been, he was a born intriguer. No matter what time he 
had lived in, he would have found some mission to flash his 
sword in. Not long after his marriage, the Chateau de Conde 
became the harbour of frequent guests — strange guests of 
different nationalities, from vSwitzerland and Germany — men 
who rode up booted to the gate, in travelling raiment and with 
an air of business. There were noblemen and soldiers, some 
dust-stained, some richly clad, the bearers of letters in cypher, 
or of news that could only be spoken — the men of the Amboise 
plot, the conspirators of Lyons, all alike entertained by the 
Prince and his gracious wife. Coligny came here too, so did the 
Princess's other uncles, d'Andelot and the Cardinal de Chatil- 
lon, and each of them looked upon Eleonore as his and as her 
husband's best friend. The castle walls must have listened 
to not a few sallies about the Guises from the ready lips of 
Conde ; not a few expressions of hatred for the Cardinal of 
Lorraine, or earnest declarations against him made by the 
vigilant Admiral ; and there must have been many discus- 
sions, now sanguine and now contemptuous, about the course 
of the Constable, the erratic Great-Uncle Montmorency ; 
many doubts as to whom he would finally serve, whether God 
or Mammon ; many oaths sworn to be kept, and some also to 
be broken. And with this brave soldierly company there 
mingled the black-robed figures of the ministers whom 
Eleonore loved to have about her— stern almost to harshness, 
conferring, reproving, exhorting. Theodore de Beze^ their 
chief in France, must have stayed here ; Perussel was one of 

124 



THE PRINCESSE DE CONDE 

her chaplains, Chandieu, Cappel, Bernadin, were among her 
friends, and so on, through names now unknown. They must 
have brought letters from their Pope, Calvin — those awful 
letters which every heretical lady of quality seems to have 
received from the uncompromising logician and indefatigably 
disagreeable correspondent. It is surprising how women like 
Marguerite of Angouleme and Jeanne of Navarre and Renee 
of Ferrara were cowed by him — how they allowed him to 
interfere with their household arrangements, to spy upon 
their servants and dominate their existence. Perhaps it is 
one more proof of the unpalatable fact that a bully (and 
Calvin was one, both by nature and by principle) fascinates 
and rules the hearts of women, especially unconquerable 
women, such as Jeanne and the Duchess Renee. On the 
gentler Princess E16onore de Conde he did not produce this 
effect, but it would have been hard, even for Calvin, to have 
found cause to disapprove of her. 

It was a strange home, this, for children ; for the three boys 
and the girl who by-and-bye appeared sedately amid this 
motley circle of guests. Perhaps, when they were alone, they 
played at being conspirators, and they must have woven 
romances round the goers-out and comers-in. The soldiers 
caressed them, the solemn ministers taught them, and it is not 
difficult to conjecture which they loved the best. 

Their education was rather severe. A lady of the house- 
hold describes it in a letter to " une sienne amie, dame 
etr anger e " : "In the morning the ' Proverbs ' of Solomon 
and after dinner the * Commentaries ' of Julius Caesar ; from 
which Monsieur the Marquis, the eldest of them, has reaped 
such fine fruit that he is the best informed boy for his age you 
could see." These lessons, which belonged to nursery days, 
were softened to them by their mother's love and their 
mother's teaching. " The mother "—says one who knew them 
— "was very intimate with her girl. And they held divine dis- 
course together concerning the greatness of God, His wisdom, 
kindness and pity ; concerning the hell made by the con- 
sciences of them that did not fear Him ; or they talked on the 
difference between pure and false service, on the certainty of 
faithful souls when death approached them, and the like high 
themes." ..." I should be puzzled " (concludes the witness) 
" to say the which spoke the best." 

But her first-bom son, Henri, was the closest to her. " An 
especial bond united them." The boy was loving and im- 

125 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

pressionable, serious and very intelligent. " He had never 
left her ; had shared her trials, had prayed and thought and 
felt with her, and had plighted her his boundless reverence 
and love." From the age of twelve he had become her best 
friend. For from that time onwards, his father's aberrations 
and infidelities made her need a steady arm to lean on. Her 
last words to him on her deathbed sum up their relation to 
one another. " Love thy two brothers and thy sister," she 
said, " not as a brother, but as the father thou must now be 
to them, since thou art the eldest and no longer a child. Talk 
as often as thou canst with the ministers, Perussel and d'Epine, 
for the good of thy soul, and believe the counsels of the gentle- 
men of the robe whom thou knowest that thy father and I 
have loved and esteemed. ... Be a lover of the public weal, 
and gain it by all the just means thou canst use without offence 
to thy conscience. ... As for thy Book of Solomon, never 
let it out of thine hands. . . . Make thy mouth the home of 
truth, keep thine hand open to the poor and thine house shut 
to flatterers. If thou dost all this, my darling, thou wilt have, 
like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the blessing of God and mine 
also." 

The sorrowful moment for these precious counsels was 
happily as yet some years distant, and no foreboding of it had 
overshadowed Eleonore's home. Here she lived in the utmost 
simplicity, renouncing luxury and " keeping her hand open 
for the poor." Much of her property she sold on behalf of 
Protestantism, giving estates to the ministers as places in 
which to hold public services, for services were only allowed 
in certain districts outside towns. Private services were held 
in the apartments of private people and before persecution 
began, these " Preches " became the fashion. Catherine set 
the mode of attending them, and all the grand world, even the 
Cardinal de Lorraine (who did it for a bet), might be found on 
one or other occasion crowding some palace salon to hear the 
preacher then in vogue. 

The Condes' rooms in Paris made one of the chief centres for 
these " worldly-holy " functions — we had almost said enter- 
tainments — though to Eleonore and a few others they meant 
solemn homage to God. They took place in the Palais de 
Conde,when the Prince, his wife and their household were in 
attendance on the Court. The Princess probably dreaded 
Paris, for there the Guises were ever on the watch to trap her. 
At one time she was nearly arrested for eating meat in Lent, 

126 



THE PRINCESSE DE CONDE 

at another, her carriage was shot at as she was driving through 
the city gates. 

These were Conde's best days. " At present " (he writes to a 
minister) " I experience and feel to the quick the presence of 
God's grace in me — so much do I feel it that I grow more intent 
on losing my life and on spilling my blood to advance the 
honour of God." Coligny was his hero and his chief, and the 
great man drew out the best in the lesser man's nature. Had 
he remained under him, nor sought independent adventure, 
his malleable temperament might have kept Coligny's im- 
press. " I declare," said the Prince (and he meant the Guises 
to hear it) " that if there should be any who undertake to 
address themselves to Monsieur the Admiral by word or 
deed, or by any means but those of justice, I will make them 
understand that I shall resent it as much as if they attacked 
my own person — I being his friend . . . and he a great knight 
sorely needed for the service of the King." Thus the fiery 
Conde, whom none can help loving. It is hardly a surprise to 
hear that he was small : thin and sharp he must certainly 
have been, like a sword always out of its scabbard. His wife's 
power over him lay in restraint ; indeed her whole power with 
his party was that of the moderator — a power by no means of 
the weakest. For she had the enthusiasm which sympa- 
thised, although she was not a bom fighter, but by nature a 
lover of concord. It is thus that she reveals herself in a letter 
to Catherine de' Medici. " Besides the fact that my business 
as a woman is not at all with arms" (she says), " my tempera- 
ment is so much inclined towards peace that I should think 
the end of my life happy if I could have helped to bring about 
in France those things which are most requisite and necessary, 
and hardest, apparently, to accomplish. . . . But when they 
are begun and the end is at least expected, then it is 
that the great God permitteth that they should be promptly 
executed." 

In this Eleonore de Cond6 was uncommon— that her gift 
for tempering men's minds never weakened her convictions 
and she was as firm as if she had been a fanatic. At a moment 
when the Queen-Mother was incensed against the Huguenots, 
Eleonore took an opportunity to deplore their fate in her pre- 
sence, and boldly reminded her that " the strange destiny 
which had struck down " Henri II, had overtaken him at a 
moment when he was planning fresh persecutions. " What ! " 
cried the outraged Regent—" Every one says that there is no 

127 



CATHERINE DE* MEDICI 

such hateful race as these Huguenots." " It is easy enough " 
(repHed the Princess) "to impute anything in the world to us 
since we have no one to defend us ; but if Her Highness knew 
us better, us and our cause, she would surely judge us very 
differently." Here again, in her answer, there steps forth the 
woman of quick tact as well as the upholder of a principle. 
It was one of the most interesting things about her that she 
was always a practical Frenchwoman, full of keen insight and 
swift resource. She stood by the plotters through every 
vicissitude as their counsellor and their comrade. In the 
justice of God she trusted implicitly, but she also believed in 
the use of worldly wisdom. If her husband had listened to 
her, he would never have gone to Orleans with Navarre to fall 
into the trap the Guises had laid for them ; would not have 
languished in prison and wasted the time and strength that 
might have been serving his cause. Well would it have been 
for him, too, had he listened to her in other ways, but he 
would not. It seems the law of noble natures like hers that 
they should be tested by adversity. The three years from 
1561 to 1564 brought only pahi and grief. Conde's need for 
excitement would have anyhow landed him in some place 
below his own level — some place of degeneration ; but it was 
the Guises who decided where it was to be. 

Isabelle de Limeuil, the merry Circe who bewitched him for 
more than two years, was the tool of the Cardinals and also, 
it must be said, of Catherine. A free-lance in the Regent's 
*' Flying Squadron," she was deliberately told off to separate 
Conde from his Huguenot wife and make him join the Catholic 
party. For the rest, she was a gay Pagan lady, and " fort 
grande parleuse. . . . Jamais le bee ne lui cessa,^^ even in her 
last illness. Nor is she unknown to romance, for it was she of 
whom it is recorded that she had a death " joyeuse et plai- 
sante.^^ She called her page Julien to her — " a sweet player 
of instruments " — and " bade him play ' The Defeat of the 
Swiss ' till he came to the words ' AH is lost.' . . . ' Play 
that phrase four or five times over,' she said, ' as piteousty as 
possible.' ... He did so, and when he came to * All is lost ' 
she said the words twice — and turning to the other side of 
the bed : * All is lost with that chord,' quoth she, and thus 
she died." In these days death was yet afar and she carried 
everything before her. The task set her of gaining Conde 
could not have been an unwelcome one, but the final separa- 
tion between husband and wife she could not, with all her 

128 



THE PRINCESSE DE CONDE 

wiles, effect. The Prince depended too much upon his wife's 
sympathy ; she had struck too deep roots in his life. But he 
sank very low. Although he knew that Isabelle was acting as 
a kind of secret police, he did not scruple to write her letters 
" in which he threw restraint to the winds and trampled on all 
his duties as a husband." And bad became worse. Tiring of 
her laughter, he turned a kind of Quixote in love and became 
the fervent champion of the Marechale de Saint-Andr6, the 
mischievous widow of the Guises' ally, a lady of boundless 
ambition and boundless wealth. She, in her turn, became 
infatuated by Conde, and wished to renounce her fortune and 
give it to him and to his children. He stooped as far as to 
accept from her the Chateau de Vallery, besides other pro- 
perties, and the connection threatened to be as dangerous as 
the last. 

Calvin and B^ze wrote him letters of exhortation. Calvin 
could be a casuist at moments — when he feared to lose a great 
prince — or could at least shut his eyes to what he did not care 
to see. " We do not believe " — he wrote — " that any evil is 
going on directly offensive to God, but when we hear that you 
make love to ladies, we feel that it must greatly derogate from 
your authority and reputation. Good people will be offended 
by you and malicious folk will make you their laughing stock." 
This last thrust again shows the writer's cleverness. Not 
in vain had he taken refuge in Courts. He was man of the 
world enough to know that the one thing which might sway 
Conde was his dread of ridicule. But the Reformer's efforts 
were in vain, and Conde remained ensnared until sorrow inter- 
vened and took the scales from his eyes. 

Throughout all this bitter ordeal Eleonore had never failed 
him. She had answered the claims of friendship with innate 
dignity. Her troubles were talked about by everybody but 
herself, and she allowed for her erratic husband's nature with 
all a mother's faithful patience. " God proves you now by a 
fresh kind of trial which is by no means new to you, for it is 
not the first sorrow you have suffered, and you have had 
heavy griefs— enough to shake the strongest men in the world," 
so wrote a minister in evident allusion to the Prince's conduct. 
And at last even her firm spirit broke, or rather it wore out 
her body, and that last sad illness began which brought her 
husband back to her side. 

*' So here I am " (she wrote, while still in health, to a cousin), 
"always on the alert, and listening to hear what it may please 

129 'K 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

God to send me." A month later she came down from her 
room with a radiant face. A voice had told her in a dream 
that death was very near, that she must prepare for it ; and 
ever since she heard it, she "had longed for that holy separa- 
tion." Straight upon this there began the terrible malady 
that killed her. Yet, far from being a fatalist, she did all 
she could to save her life. "It is not for us to desert this 
garrison without the leave of our Captain," so she once said, 
and, though she knew it was useless, she took all her food 
obediently. " Whatever her anguish," wrote one of her 
ladies, " I always saw her with dry eyes, without cries, with- 
out tears and without complaints, such as even the most 
courageous indulge in." Perussel, her Huguenot director, 
watched and prayed by her bedside, strengthening her with 
sober consolations. " Thou hast reached" — he said — " about 
the half of a mortal's age . . . oughtest not thou to thank 
God and bless Him in that He desireth to excuse thee the 
sweat of thy labour for the rest of the day, and give thee the 
wage thou wouldst have earned hadst thou toiled the whole 
day long ? " Her soul, even then, ruled her body. A few 
days before the end, she could not find ease in either of the two 
beds in which she was put in turn to see if the change would 
bring her relief. " Almighty Lord ! " she prayed, " since in 
all the places of this earthly manor-house, great and spacious 
though it be and the work of Thy hands, I cannot find with 
my utmost diligence one little spot of comfort ... I quit 
this hired tenement ... to return to Thee, whose arms I see 
outstretched towards me." 

Conde had come back to her, never to leave her again. But 
he was such a convinced adversary of gloom that he shut his 
eyes to the truth. Even at this solemn time of trial his need 
for distraction came uppermost. " My Nephew" (runs one of 
his letters) — "My great wish to get news of you prompts me to 
write this note and at the same time to entreat that, if you can 
manage it, you will come to see and console your good friend ; 
and relation. Come with your setters, also with your horses 
and your arms, if that be possible, and I will promise to show 
you as fine a hunting-course here as you could know how to 
find. My horses and arms will arrive to-day, and I hope that 
if you come we shall find ways, God willing, to enjoy 
ourselves." 

The last five words are characteristic of the man and his 
creed : of his inabihty to win heaven and his inability to give 

130 



THE PRINCESSE DE CONDE 

up earth. Eleonore, who knew too well his quick, susceptible 
character, was tender to it to the last. " Fearing to move her 
husband too much if she herself told him that she felt the end 
coming . . . she charged two intimate friends to go and seek 
Conde and to beg him to let her entrust him with her last 
wishes in an authentic form. " Tell the Prince," — she said — 
*' that since God is pleased so soon to separate our bodies, I 
have but one aspiration — that our spirits may continue to be 
bounden inseparably together. . . . Tell him also that (to 
begin my last Will) I constitute him the universal heir to the 
mass of love that I have vowed to my children, and that I 
conjure him to hold vigil in my place — henceforth both for 
himself and for me — so that they may be brought up in the 
fear of God, the which I know is the surest patrimony that I 
can bequeathe to them." The Prince, returning to her bed- 
side, rose to the occasion : " God who joined us now divides 
us," he said — " Blessed will be the moment when He com- 
mands us to meet again in a place of eternity." He " spoke 
many loving things to her," and she, losing no time, " with a 
wonderful force and clearness " continued to exhort and 
encourage him in words fraught with a solemn dignity which 
must have lifted him to her, which lifts us even as we read 
them. When he had withdrawn, she bade farewell to her 
children. With her eldest boy she spoke apart, begging him, 
as we know, to act as a father to the younger ones, nor did she 
in any way advise him to refer to Conde. The place that she 
assigned her husband in the counsels of their son is also sadly 
significant. For she bade the boy serve the King, trust his 
relations, honour the Queen of Navarre, the Cardinal de Bour- 
bon, his father, his grandmother, and his other uncles. Mes- 
sieurs de Chatillon and de La Rochefoucauld, all of them God- 
fearing folk." I And then in the sacred hush which followed 
her voice, she blessed the weeping little prince: "I give thee 
my benediction," she said, " and with it this diamond ring, 
which I pray thee keep for the love of me and in remembrance 
of my words." 

The darkness fell, and at midnight she asked for her husband. 
" I am sure " — she said — " the Prince will not mind being awoken 
for this occasion, and it would not be well to wait till I could no 
longer declare to him the things that God has put in my heart." 
After he had come, there passed between them those moments 
from which none may raise the veil. Then she lifted her voice 
in prayer. " O God, my winter is past, and my spring is come. 

131 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Open to me the gate of Thy heavenly garden that I may enjoy 
the fruit of Thy eternal sweetness." 

When the end came, she was alone with two of her ministers ; 
Conde had withdrawn, unable to bear more. It was one of 
these ministers, Labrossiere, who went to tell him of her death. 
When he entered Conde's room the Prince knew well what had 
happened ; none the less he continued for a while to read in a 
prayer-book which he held in his hand, then turning his face 
to the minister, he asked him how his wife was now. " My 
lord," replied Labrossiere, " she is with God, where you will 
one day be also." 

Conde's grief was acute, and remorse lent it a fresh sting. 
Nothing perhaps about him touches one so much as his words 
to his little girl — his wife's last bequest to him — directly after 
Eleonore's death. "Try, my darling," he said, "to be like 
her, so that God may help you as He helped her . . . and 
that I may love you more and more, as I surely shall do if 
you are as she was." ..." Girls " (he added) " are usually 
hke their fathers, but you must try to vie with your mother's 
goodness. For you will be told things about your father and 
his life that you must not imitate, though there are other 
things in him you may follow ; but in your mother . . . you 
will find nothing that should not serve as your dearly treasured 
ideal." His grief, for the moment, exalted him ; it relieved him 
to express it in verse, and though there is no kind of Hterary 
worth in the lines he wrote, their impetuous sincerity, the 
feeling of * too late ' that inspired them, turns them into 
poetry of the heart — 

C'est moi, Segneur, elle n'a fait la faute, 
Et c'est raison que la peine me suive. 

Non, je fais tort a ta prudence haute ! 
A vrai parler, mort je reste, elle est vive. 

Eleonore de Roye belonged to a race of saintly women who 
seem indigenous to France — of women who unite Evangehcal 
fervour with Roman Catholic unction. Intense, yet full of 
amenity, they were grandes dames without being worldly and 
looked upon good manners as a natural part of holiness. They 
belonged to no time and no religion, but were now of this creed, 
now of that, according as one or the other embodied the most 
living faith ; and in the time of the Condes, the Protestant 
religion meant the keenest spiritual life and produced the saints 
of that day. But the Noailles, the Liancourts, the Montagus, 

132 



THE PRINCESSE DE CONDE 

the Lafayettes, the Duras, the La Rochefoucaulds, those 
Roman Catholic martyrs of the French Revolution, belonged 
to the same tribe ; so, in the seventeenth century, did the ladies 
of Port Royal ; "and so, in later days, did the ultramontane 
Ferronays and the pious Eugenie de Guerin. They represent 
the fine flower of sanctity and a courtesy of soul that has never 
been surpassed. 

Nor, indeed, has it ever been changed. For not the least 
remarkable quality of this dynasty — their strength and their 
limitation — is their incapability of modification. In what- 
ever time they lived they have been entirely unaffected by 
surrounding conditions, and if they could all have been 
gathered together, there would be no real barrier to divide them. 
As far as Eleonore de Roye was concerned, the Renaissance 
might never have existed. Yet the world about her was full 
of it : it was the constant topic, the mainspring, of the society 
at Court in which she herself had to move when in Paris. 
But for her the classics still slumbered ; art was but the ser- 
vant of a corrupt Church; learning an unimportant, often 
perilous, accessory of existence; and joy in life — the manifold 
life of mind and senses — a condition alien to her ; or, if she 
realized it at all, it was as a temptation. Such beliefs were 
always common among Puritans, but she was unlike the 
Puritans in this, that she did not condemn others. She had 
too gifted a nature to be a Pharisee, and her goodness was so 
instinctive that she neither knew nor needed shibboleths. It 
would have been well for the Huguenots could her delicate 
spirit have guided them. 



133 



CHAPTER VII 

Jeanne de Navarre 



135 



AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 



Lettres d'Antoine de Bourbon et de Jeanne d'Albret. 
Jeanne d'Albret — Miss Freer. 

Lettre de Renee de Ferrare a Jean Calvin — Archives Curieuses. 
Introductions to "Lettres de Catherine de' Medici " — Le Comte de la 
Ferriire. 



136 



CHAPTER VII 

Jeanne de Navarre 

IF France is distinguished for its women saints, the same may 
be said for its religious politicians — the dealers in " celestial 
politics," as Lowell once called them. They began with the 
Abbesses of old ; repentant ladies swelled their numbers ; 
Catholics, Calvinists, Frondists carried on the race through 
the centuries. The Protestant, Jeanne de Navarre, the 
Catholic Madame de Maintenon, are of the same blood spiritu- 
ally, if not of the same creed. The fact is that the true French- 
woman is essentially practical and positive, and politics, in 
whatever form, represent the most practical of sciences. 
This was as true in the sixteenth century as it is now, but in 
those days religion provided women with their only opportunity 
for statescraft. And the Protestant religion, whose votaries 
were in the minority, whose codes were still forming, whose 
tenets were still fought and plotted for, presented a fine 
area for feminine politicians. It could boast of many, but 
of none so much as of Jeanne of Navarre and of Renee of 
Ferrara. Jeanne was by far the most eminent of the two. 
Renee, though as active as she, was active in smaller ways. 
Unhke the Queen of Navarre, she had no large conceptions, 
and was little more than a conscientious intriguer. Jeanne, 
on the other hand, was a stateswoman, with a strong and 
unswerving policy and, had she lived in a later century, would 
have found scope in a secular field. Her family traditions, 
however, and her naturally austere temperament made her 
the fitter to devote her energies to Protestantism. 

This kind of religion was quite compatible with the love 
of art and knowledge, and beneath the large roof of Jeanne 
de Navarre the Renaissance and the Reformation lived com- 
fortably together. Less could hardly have been expected 
from the daughter of Marguerite of Angouleme — the Princess 
who had made it her mission to reconcile the " New Opinions" 
with the " New Learning " and to help both to flourish in 

137 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

an atmosphere of suavity. Jeanne did not care about sua\dty 
— in her girlhood it had irritated her as much as her mother's 
dreamy mysticism. For Jeanne hated vagueness ; but she 
loved convictions and she loved the classics, and welcomed 
every definite attempt at scholarship. She was something of a 
royal bluestocking and nothing at all of a poet ; and though as a 
sixteenth century Minerva she was bound in honour to write 
verses, they took the form of abnormally dull "Epistles," 
devoid of literary taste. And yet she delighted in Latin poets 
and Greek philosophers, for she herself was no mean scholar 
and no mean student of philosophy. 

But intellectual though she was, it was character which 
most distinguished her and made her dominate her sur- 
roundings. A strong, clear will and a need of power, a vehe- 
ment temper, the faculty of concentration — these were her 
endowments and had been since she was a baby. The Queen 
Jeanne was just the same person as the Jeanne who had 
spent her wayward childhood between her parents and her 
uncle. King Frangois ; the Jeanne who had almost ruined 
her mother by her extravagant love of masques and plays ; 
who, in a naughty fit, had cut off the heads of the Saints from 
the tapestry in Marguerite's embroidery-frame and replaced 
them by the heads of foxes — a feat which may be said to show 
more of the Renaissance than of sanctity ; the Jeanne, finally, 
who, at twelve, had summoned the Cardinals and prelates of 
Paris to the Cathedral and there formally refused the Due de 
Cloves, the bridegroom her uncle had chosen for her — that 
omnipotent uncle whose will none but she dared resist. She 
knew her mind as clearly, she acted with as prompt decision, 
as she did in after days ; and although she was whipped by her 
governess every day to make her submit, she bore the penalty 
with the same courage that later she spent upon her cause. 
It was not the first time that a like chastisement had been 
administered to her. " Well do I remember," she wrote in 
later years, " that long previously, the King, Monsieur my 
most honoured father and lord, hearing that the Queen (Mar- 
guerite d'Angouleme) was engaged in prayer in her own 
apartments, with the ministers, Roussel and Farel, entered 
and dealt her a blow on the right cheek — the ministers having 
contrived to escape in great perturbation — while he soundly 
chastised me with a rod, forbidding me to concern myself 
with matters of doctrine ; the which treatment cost me many 
bitter tears, and held me in dread until his death " — the only 

138 




Reni<:e de France, Duchess of Fekkara. 

A 

BY JKAN CLOUET. CHATEAU DK CMAKTII.LY. 

Front a fthotograph by A. Giraiidon. 



% 



JEANNE DE NAVARRE 

instance of fear which exists in the chronicles of Jeanne 
d'Albret. Had the princess been beaten black and blue, she 
would still have been the leader of the Protestants in France, 
all the more so because of opposition. The discipline, however, 
was not without its merits. Hard times produce hard charac- 
ters, but they also create Stoics, and perhaps Jeanne's power 
of endurance would not have been the same without these 
buffet ings and beatings. 

Her father's despotism, her mother's Protestant training 
had thus established her vocation. But though she was 
the heir of her mother's creed, she was not, as we have said, 
the heir of her mother's ideas. Marguerite could never have 
been a leader — she was too literary, too amiable, too imagin- 
tive ; she saw all sides and aimed at reconciling them. Jeanne, 
on the other hand, saw one thing clearly and made for it 
without any subtleties. Practical, fiery and masterful, she 
was bom to carry out ideas, not to originate them. Of atmo- 
sphere she had little, of force she had a store, and the cause of 
the Reformation, then synonymous with that of liberty, was 
ready to her hand. And it was as the cause of liberty, not 
as the cause of religion, that the movement really appealed to 
her, however sincerely she believed that her motives were 
spiritual. This is important to remember because it is the 
key to her character. For she had not the religious tempera- 
ment — was, indeed, a sceptic by nature, and a born free-lance. 
Had she lived in our own day, she would have been an ad- 
vanced freethinker, probably a woman of science. 

The same holds true of her elder comrade-at-arms, her 
admirer, Renee of Ferrara, who formulated her views in a 
remarkable letter to Calvin, in words that express Jeanne's 
attitude almost as well as her own. She is speaking about 
miracles, which she refutes. " Men's bodies, when their souls 
have left them, do not work these miracles, nor yet while 
they live in this world." Such is the way she reasons and a more 
matter-of-fact statement could, perhaps, hardly be found. 
Nor does she stop here. " For the rest " (she continues 
breezily), "I have never demanded or desired the services 
of ministers who offered to pray for me or for others. I always 
leave every one's prayers to his own liberty of conscience. If 
I asked those who have had gifts from me to pray for me, 
it would seem 'as if I wished to reward myself. . . . We all 
pray for one another in the prayer that the Lord has taught 
us. . . . Nor again am I one of those who pray, or get others 

139 



CATHERINE DE* MEDICI 

to pray, forthe people who are no longer in the world." All 
this must have pleased her omnipotent correspondent ; but 
she had a keen eye, too, for the faults of her own side and she 
did not keep them to herself. Brave woman that she was, 
she did not hesitate to confront him with a protest against 
cruelty. " Monsieur Calvin," it runs, " I am sore distressed 
that you know not how half the world is governed in this 
kingdom, so that simple little women are induced to promise 
that they will kill and strangle with their own hands. This is 
not the rule that Jesus Christ and His Apostles bequeathed 
to us ; I say this in deep sadness of heart. ... I pray you 
Monsieur Calvin, to put up prayers to God that He may 
show you the truth of all things. ..." 

This again might have been written by Jeanne. She had 
inherited the traditions of her upbringing — the traditions 
of her mother's large heart — and her own philosophical nature 
pleaded of itself for tolerance. She was a woman of the 
Renaissance, and the humaneness of the Renaissance had passed 
into her. 

She did not at once step forth as the chief of the Huguenots. 
Her letter, already quoted, shows why ; the dread of her 
father restrained her as long as he remained alive. It was 
Renee who first urged her into action and hailed her as the 
Captain of their creed. " Maybe," she told Calvin, " that the 
Queen of Navarre will achieve the establishment of our faith. 
It seems to me she is as fit for the task as any woman I know. 
I bear her a mother's love and adore the grace that God has 
given her." This was after the death of the tyrant, Henri de 
Navarre, when Jeanne was herself not slow to announce her 
mission to the world. " At the present moment," she writes, 
" freed by the death two months ago of the said Monseigneur, 
my father, and urged by the example and exhortations of my 
cousin, the Duchess of Ferrara, it appears to me that reform 
is as reasonable as it seems necessary ; so much so that I 
deem it disloyal cowardice towards God, towards my con- 
science and towards my people, to halt longer in suspense 
and perplexity." 

The new opinions had come to her by degrees. Her youth- 
ful impatience with her mother's transcendentalism had at 
first rather set her against them and it was only when left 
to herself that they had gradually taken hold of her mind. 
This had happened long before she thus professed them pub- 
licly, and her Bourbon husband shared her views. For in 

140 



JEANNE DE NAVARRE 

1548 (seven years before her father's death), Jeanne, who had 
then turned twenty, had married Antoine de Bourbon, Due 
de Vendome. The Due de Guise had proposed for her, but 
him she had haughtily rejected. His brother, the Due 
d'Aumale, had married Diane de Poitiers' daughter. "Do you 
wish" — she said to the King — "that the woman who ought 
to be my train-bearer should be my sister-in-law and that I 
should hobnob with the daughter of Madame de Valentinois ? " 
Antoine de Bourbon was fortunately her own choice. One 
wonders if she knew how very nearly she had lost him. For 
at the last moment, just before the wedding, he was seized 
with panic lest her marriage in childhood with the Due de 
Cleves (a nominal marriage long since annulled by the Pope) 
should not have been duly dissolved and should cause him 
trouble hereafter. His fears were pacified, however, and the 
fact would not be worth recording, were it not so characteristic 
of his easy-going, vacillating nature. 

With so resolute a character as hers she was bound to have 
a weak husband, and yet, though she was always the man 
of the two, she kept the inconsistency of the woman and, to 
the end, was devoted to him. The secret was not far to seek. 
She was his Mentor, his support, and more than this, for 
many years he adored her. Not without good reason ; for at 
the time she married him she must have been the most fascinat- 
ing girl, though, like most fascinating people, she was difficult 
to live with. Her face was expressive, not beautiful, and 
needed the animation of talk. Her cool head and her stormy 
heart governed her in turn ; her witty tongue was a vent 
for both. Qualities have their defects and she confounded 
truthfulness with rudeness, a certain brusquerie being native 
to her. Insincerity she never forgave. Her hatred of pre- 
tence and her high-bom simplicity amounted to a moral 
force, and as for Court ways they altogether disgusted her. " I 
tell you," she wrote from Paris, " that if I had to go on in this 
way for a month, I should be ill. Indeed I do not know that 
I am not so already, for I am never at my ease here." With 
the cosmetics, actual and spiritual, that courtiers were wont 
to deal in, she would have nothing to do. "If you talk of her 
beauty," she says of a certain great lady, " I tell you that she 
helps it so much that she enrages me, for, of course, she is 
spoiling it. But paint is almost as common here as it is in 
Spain." 

That Jeanne had never used it for herself, in a day when it 

141 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

was almost thought improper to be natural, required no small 
courage on her part. And yet, in spite of her primitiveness, 
she belonged, we must repeat, to the Renaissance. It is 
a common mistake to picture her only as an austere woman 
given up to theological discussion. She presented a surprising 
number of contrasts, and was by turns serious and gay, coarse 
and refined, gauloise and pedantic, a romping hoyden and a 
logician of strong intellect. At one moment, we find her 
enjoying the play as of old and watching a farce, " a com- 
plete travesty of the ceremonies of the Church." At another, 
she is sitting dreaming, her ladies round her, deep melancholy 
in her eyes, a Virgil lying in her lap. Or she rises impetuously 
in her Council and pours forth a stream of unstudied eloquence 
which amazes, perhaps exhausts, her audience. And next, 
by the strangest transition, this princess of strong vitality 
sings a song of Beam while her son is being bom, in order to 
win a bet — a rich gold chain — from her father. Her spirits 
were exuberant even for those days, and, it must be added, 
unredeemed by any sense of proportion. But she was not 
heartless like so many of her contemporaries. There seemed 
to be a well of feeling hidden deep in her steadfast brown eyes. 

Nothing in their early married days could exceed her hus- 
band's love for her. " Now I know full well " (he wrote) " that 
I can as little live without you as the body can live without 
the soul ... I entreat you to come straight to Cognac, where 
I shall await you, so that you may find your host and your 
room as well prepared to welcome you as in any place you 
ever were in." Or again — 

" I will no longer live without you ! You may believe 
me or not, as you like, but I am terribly bored when I do 
not see you, much more than you can ever know. You would 
pity me, darling, if you saw me, for I have grown very much 
thinner and have no good hope of getting better till I see you 
and revive under your care. ..." 

The " believe me or not, as you like " suggests a little world 
of domestic difficulties, for Jeanne had probably begun to 
doubt his truth. She had also kept the temper of her girlhood, 
and his letters betray an amusing fear of it. " Wherefore I 
implore of you, dear love, not to feel vexed if things do not 
come about as quickly as you wish . . . with which words, 
darling, I will close, begging you once again not to be cross, 
for I swear on the faith of an honest man that to prove my love 
for you, I would give both my life and my estate." So he 

142 



r 



/Kc^n^ ^i><Wi. 



m 



fc 



Jeannk d'Ai.bret, Reine de Navarre. 

BY FRANCOIS Ct.OUET. BIUI.IOTHkQUE NATIONAI.P:. 

Front a photograf>h by A. G:ra7tdon. 



JEANNE DE NAVARRE 

wrote about some family affair which he was supposed to be 
settling and about which his wife had strong preconceived 
notions. Sometimes he tries to coax her into self-control. 

" I have, my dearest," he writes, " received another letter 
from you all full of frettings and fumings at the way in 
which the Baillive and the Viscount are tormenting you. 
I shall write to them as you wish, and I assure you that I 
shall not support them or anybody else against you, but 
on the contrary I shall uphold you as the mistress. As a 
reward for this, I beg you to try and control yourself very 
sensibly as you promised me. You are no longer a child, but 
a woman, and at an age when you ought to have discretion. 
But indeed you possess such a good store of it, both in con- 
ducting yourself and in managing our affairs, that I shan't 
trouble about anything." 

Antoine was evidently a diplomat, and in the early years 
of his marriage he exercised a strong influence over her. At 
that time Jeanne would have been the last person to recognize 
his weakness, for he was quite the man to blind her acute 
vision. No man is conscious that he is a light creature and 
Antoine had a serious side, in which, especially in youth, he 
believed as firmly as his wife could do. His soul was well- 
bom and his aims were noble enough, however inadequate 
his power of sustaining them. " My wish to see you," he tells 
her, " is not a whit less than yours ; but the love of honour — 
the desire to stand in the ranks of the men who leave their 
memory behind them . . . keeps me at this place " (the seat 
of warfare) " longer than I like to be kept." And his best self 
comes out again in a letter to Francois II — the letter he wrote 
when first he was summoned to Orleans. " I have been 
considering " — he says — " the inconstancy and changefulness 
of all things human, which ever incline of their own nature 
towards the great abyss ; which would, in sooth, sink into 
decadence if the immense Divine Goodness did not lend us a 
Hand, and draw us forth from this maze of error which tires 
us out with mortal distress." 

If this be a confession of weakness, it is also full of sincerity. 
Self-deception is not dishonesty, though it is often taken 
for it, and the fact that a man's practice does not square with 
his eloquence does not necessarily prove him to be a h5^ocrite. 
Antoine de Bourbon had an ardent southern nature and began 
by caring enough for the cause of the Reformers to be in strong 
sympathy with his wife. For the rest, he was a gay, easy- 

143 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

going soldier, handsome to look at, a brilliant man-of-arms and 
a good comrade, contented with what the day brought forth. 

"I was never" (he writes from the camp) "better pleased 
than I am now, for we are splendidly looked after — M. de 
Nevers, M. le Marechal de la Marche and I — and we do just 
as we like. We never budge from one another and we spend 
our days as joyously as we can contrive to do." 

No man, no Frenchman even, could be more social than 
Antoine, or more susceptible to the companionship of women. 
His career as a bachelor was fraught with flowery adventures ; 
however, when he married Jeanne he was convinced that they 
were all over. In a letter a year after their wedding, when 
his young wife was in Beam, " I never dreamed," (he said), 
*' that I could receive the courtship of ladies as ill as I do now ; 
it seems to me that they have all grown ugly and boring. I 
know not if it be the sweet wind that blows from B^am which 
is the cause of this, or if it be my eyesight which has changed 
so much that it can no longer deceive itself as before. I am 
sure that those who once made a point of informing you of my 
misdoings will quickly tell you of all the good I'm doing now." 

And again, three years later — a long time for the fidelity 
of a prince of the Renaissance : " I will end my note," he says, 
'* and assure you once more that neither the ladies of the 
Court, nor the ladies of anywhere else, can ever have the 
slightest power over me, unless it be the power which makes 
me hate them. ... On the contrary, all that I possess I wish 
to keep for my companion, and I pray her to do the same." 

" You do protest too much," Jeanne might have said, 
and probably did say, though she was yet far from the days 
of her real ordeal. Like other married couples of other days 
they had difficulties besides those of jealousy, and we smile 
as we read that the French mother-in-law already existed 
in 1549 — the first year of their life together. " Madame my 
Mother" — he writes — "has written and said that she wishes 
very much that you would go to La Fleche with her while 
I am away. I entreat you to go as she wants you so badly ; 
and if you are bored with her, return home and make the 
excuse that our affairs force you to take a journey and that 
you will come back to her as soon as ever you can. If by 
good luck you like being there, break up the carriage ; it 
will be of no use, as we decided together, you and I, a little 
while ago." 

Once more in Antoine's soothing tone we detect a certain 

144 



JEANNE DE NAVARRE 

nervousness as to how his self-willed bride would take his 
suggestion. Nor is the note without significance for those 
who read between the lines. It is a curious little proof how, 
even in these early days, he misapprehended the nature of 
the woman he had made his wife. For to think that she 
would consent to get out of a discomfort by a false excuse 
was a fundamental blunder — and the blunder of an inferior 
character. In those few lines of his letter there lies the whole 
of a poem by Browning. 

Soon after they were written, events settled her plans for 
her. That same year, 1549, her eldest child was bom. 

A bare hour's rail from Laon, there rises on a steep hill 
the huge castle-fortress of Coucy, the largest and the mightiest 
in France. Throned on its height, it looks like some ancient 

fiant turned to . stone — the Spirit of the Feudal System, 
Itanic yet helpless, watching the pageant of the modem 
world below. It was here that the birth took place. The 
poor baby was made over to the care of Jeanne's old gover- 
ness, the Baillive deCaen, who subjected it to the treatment 
then given to highly-nurtured infants. It was shut out from 
every breath of air and kept in a dark room, in a cradle muffled 
in draperies. The Mar^chal de Vielleville in his Memoirs 
tells us how he saved the life of the child of some friends of 
his — a creature of a few weeks old — by insisting on opening 
the windows, drawing the curtains and stripping its bed of 
every hanging. The lookers-on were horrified, but the baby 
recovered. This one was not so fortunate as to meet with an 
enlightened gentleman and, not being of the strongest, it 
died. So did a second boy, who followed it rather closely. 
The third survived these first perils, but his fate was even 
sadder. His nurse, a sixteenth century prince's nurse, high- 
bom and of exuberant spirits, was dallying at a window with 
a courtier who was standing on the balcony below. Bethink- 
ing herself of a new form of frolic, she threw the baby to him 
like a ball, but as he failed to catch it, it fell to the ground. 
The wretched woman, panic-stricken, stilled its piercing cries, 
and the fact that its ribs were broken was never discovered 
till too late. The poor child followed the fate of his prede- 
cessors and his parents were again left without a son. " My 
love," wrote the husband with the inhuman philosophy of 

his day "... I pray you to let me alone bear this grief and 
do not torment yourself ; since for one that God takes away, 

He can give us a dozen." 

145 L 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Jeanne's father, then still alive and still the one person she 
dreaded, did not take the matter so cooUy. The loss of an 
heir touched him deeply and his anger with his daughter on 
this third occasion knew no bounds. It was all due to her 
neglect, he said, and should she become a mother again, he 
himself would undertake to rear his grandchild. He was as 
good as his word, and, when she once more had expectations, 
he made her promise that she would give the new bom infant 
into his care. He therefore removed her to his palace at 
Pau in Beam, and it was here that on December 13, 1554, the 
little Henri IV saw the light. 

His birth was the occasion, already alluded to, of Jeanne's 
winning of a bet by a song. Her father, restored to good hu- 
mour, was one day sitting in her company. They were talking, 
perhaps of the coming event and of all that it signified ; of 
their wishes for a boy and the heritage that would be his. 
Henri knew full well that Jeanne felt great curiosity about his 
Will. Suddenly he rose and opened a coffer from which he 
took a long neck-chain fastened to a small gold box. " Ma 
fille,^^ he said, " you see this box. Well, it shall be your own, 
with my last Will which it contains, provided that when your 
child is about to enter the world, you will sing me a Gascon or 
a Bearnais song. I do not want a peevish girl, or a drivelling 
boy." Jeanne was charmed and her father ordered his 
faithful servant, Cotin, to sleep in her dressing-room and to 
fetch him at the eventful moment. When it came, between 
two and three on a bleak winter morning, she remembered 
to keep her promise and despatched Cotin to her father. 
Not long after, she heard King Henri's step upon the stair 
and in a strong sweet voice she began to sing the ballad of 
the country-side — " Notre Dame du bout du font, aidez moi 
a cette heure " — an invocation to the miraculous image of the 
Virgin, the patron-saint of matrons, which stood in the 
little chapel at the end of the Bridge of Pau. Henri was in 
time to receive the baby into his arms. With great circum- 
spection, he wrapped it in the skirts of his robe and then 
conscientiously placed the gold box in his daughter's hand. 
" There ! that is thine, my girl," he said, as he did so, " but 
this," pointing to the child, " is mine." With these words 
he carried it away to his own apartments where the nurse 
awaited him. But before he gave it to her, he fulfilled the 
old custom of Beam and first rubbed its little lips with clove 
of garlic, next offered the newcomer wine in a golden cup. 

146 



JEANNE DE NAVARRE 



Hp6g^ii<i says that the precocious prince smelled the wine and 
raised his head joyously, with other " signs of satisfaction " — 
that he swallowed the rich red drops which his grandsire put 
upon his tongue. " Fa, tu seras un vrai Bearnais I " ex- 
claimed the delighted Henri. It may be that the legend tells 
true, if we choose to take it as an allegory ; the baby was the 
contemporary of Gargantua who came into the world athirst, 
and Rabelais, the preacher of joie de vivre, had but lately passed 
away. Having thus satisfied Bearnais traditions, His Majesty 
of Navarre bore the boy into the crowded ante-chamber. 
*' My Lords," he shouted, lifting him above the heads of the 
expectant courtiers, " lo and behold ! A sheep has brought 
forth a lion." The poor " sheep," meanwhile, was having a 
bitter experience. We may be sure that no fatigue prevented 
her from instantly examining the precious box, the contents 
of which meant so much to her. What were her feelings 
when she found that her malicious father had not given her 
the key ! The Will was safe enough, but her curiosity was 
defeated. 

The whole history is alike characteristic of the father and 
the daughter ; characteristic, too, of the times, of the vivid 
blending of tradition with reality, of familiarity with grandeur, 
of crude jokes with severity. Where Antoine was, mean- 
while, we cannot tell. The husband played no part in the 
drama and Henri ruled omnipotent. He was determined that 
this time the baby's health should not suffer. He sent it 
away to the home of its nurse, a strong peasant-woman who 
brought up the prince with her own child. But she sickened 
with an epidemic and so did seven nurses who succeeded her. 
The boy was at last given over to the care of a labourer's wife, 
with whom he spent his infancy — his mother being permitted 
by the King to visit him in private when she wished. The 
cottage where he lived was long shown, the arms of France 
blazoned over its doorway, with the words, " Sauve-garde du 
Roy," a privilege conceded to " Jeanne Fourchade and her 
posterity for ever." 

Six years later Henri died, and Jeanne succeeded to the 
throne of Beam and Navarre. For the last two generations 
the inheritance was a diminished one, Spain having won from 
her grandfather the province known as Spanish Navarre. 
Of this realm Philip II had recently been proclaimed King, 
and the constant manoeuvres to regain it formed a prominent 
part of the history of Jeanne and her husband. From the 

147 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

early days of her reign, she devoted much of her energy to the 
administration of her domain, seconded by Antoine, but 
herself the leading spirit. "God" (she writes) "has always 
done me the grace to preserve this little corner of the country — 
this Beam — where, bit by bit, good grows and evil becomes 
less. The more I receive from Him, the more I owe Him." 
Her life was for some time a very happy one, between her 
husband and her son and the Httle girl, Catherine, who came 
not long afterwards. That Antoine was frequently obliged 
to be away in the wars only laid stress on their content, since 
absence refreshed their love, and the letters he wrote her at 
this time give a pleasant picture of their home and of their 
life together there. 

" Ma mie^^ (to quote one of them), " I have received the 
letter that you sent me by this messenger asking me to tell 
Charles of a place to plant your mulberries in, which I will do. 
There seems to me no more fitting place than along the meadow 
slope where we play at Barres. Mine had better be planted 
at the end of the bridge over the Gave. ... As for the high 
garden, if Perguade does not bring the trees do not touch it 
. . . but if they have come, have them planted in the middle 
alley." 

Or he begs her to order some seeds of melons and sweet 
onions, " of each sort a leathern sack, about a foot high. . . . 
for the sowing season approaches in which, as you know, my 
dear, whoso wishes to eat first-fruits must not fail to work 
duly." 

Or he comments upon the festive exchange of presents, more 
frequent between relations in those gracious days than now. 
" I send you by the little monk, whom you know so well, a 
pair of hounds, the prettiest imaginable, and a linnet who kept 
me company while I was ill, the nicest and best-spoken that 
ever you saw. I commend it to you, because it loves me so 
much that it will reply to me and to no one else. That is why I 
loved it. ... I will not tell you anything more, except that 
all my life I shall believe, both as an honest man and as a hus- 
band, in the things that touch us nearly. As to what you 
say about wishing to wear a cap this summer, you could not 
do more wisely, since you were the better for it last year." 

He gives her a gold chain of his designing, a coach with 
" white horses, or grey ones," his own being white and roan. 
She shall choose which she likes, for " the merchant, his mare 
and his services are all at her command." She, in her turn, 

148 



JEANNE DE NAVARRE 

sends him presents of fine linen to the camp. " Last night 
we slept to the sound of drums . . . but I could not be un- 
comfortable as I have done what I meant to do. I have 
received the chemise you despatched to me but I shall bring 
it back quite white, for a man who in this cold sleeps in his 
clothes does not care to undress in the morning." 

Some of his notes are beyond their day in a natural grace 
of feeling and expression uncommon in that period of tedious 
and elaborate compliment. "I beg you" (runs one of them) 
" to excuse me for writing so badly at this moment ; the reason 
lies in the company hanging about me. As for me, I am, I 
consider, a clever fellow enough when I am in touch with 
things, or when I am — you can guess where — on horseback, 
like St. George. . . I protest, ma petite vieille, that I am 
wholly at your service, saving my honour. And this is the 
end, dear love, of my constant assurance that you cause me 
many more regrets than you are worth." 

Or here is another, lamenting the letters that have not 
reached her : " I am very sorry for two reasons — because it is 
a joy to you to receive them and because it is a trouble to me 
to write them. And I will not make this one longer, except 
to beg you to keep my little comrade in good condition." 
The " little comrade " was the toddling Henri IV—" Mignon " 
as he called him. He makes constant allusions to his 
children, for whom he longed with touching constancy. 
"Please" (he wrote), *'as often as you can, send me news of 
my children, and sometimes a letter from Mignon" — and 
" May God have thee and the little troop in His holy keeping ! " 
was the prayer he liked to close with. 

Now and again his letters sound a deeper note and it is 
curious to observe the difference between the one that he 
sent when their child died and this other ,written when she lost 
her father. 

" I have a great fear for you because of the love which you 
bear him, greater than your love towards any one excepting 
myself ; because also you deem this grief greater than any you 
have had. I am afraid that Nature will compel you to 
make violent demonstration of sorrow, and I implore you to 
show yourself wise and to feel sure that you have married 
one who will serve you as father, mother, brother and hus- 
band. For I am certain that . . . you will be none the less 
obedient and I promise you I will never be aught but the 
gentlest and most loving mate in the world." 

149 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

- Until the accession of Fran9ois II their pubhc Hfe flowed on 
fairly smoothly. A great event was their journey to the 
French Court with their Httle son. There had been murmurs 
against Jeanne's growing Protestantism, and Henri II had 
even threatened invasion if she did not send away her heretical 
preachers. She parried the blow with skill by making the 
Cardinal d'Armagnac, a pillar of orthodoxy, the governor of 
Beam. But other difficulties arose. The French monarch, 
for reasons of his own, desired the possession of Navarre and 
offered her another province in exchange. Jeanne refused 
with righteous indignation, but matters became so complicated 
that a visit to His Majesty seemed desirable. She ended by 
carrying the day, and that without offending the King, for 
when she departed homewards the match between her son and 
Princess Margot was practically resolved on. 

It was not long after this that there were signs of a rift 
within the lute. Other ladies no longer seemed so " ugly and 
boring," to Antoine. His absences were more prolonged, his 
protestations more eager. Scenes were growing frequent 
between the pair. 

"I learn by your letter" — he wrote — " the new motto that 
you have taken ; I consider it neither a propos nor reasonable. 
But if you wish every one to think that our good faith and love 
are broken, and if this be what your heart desires, pray tell 
me and I too will change my wishes and my motto, that mine 
may accord with yours and that I may do like you. With 
which, my dear, I end ; and I beg you to answer me by this 
footman and to believe that I shall follow you in everything, 
be it good or be it evil." • 

Occasionally his notes show pique and a kind of nettled 
longing for her presence. " If I cannot go to you, you must 
come to me," says one of them. ..." I believe that you want 
to very much, but not as much as I do. I don't say that once 
upon a time you had not this advantage over me, but now I 
have it over you." 

Directly he was tested, Jeanne was bound to find out what 
a poor creature he was. Anything that needed a decision 
found him wanting. As long as affairs were calm he kept 
his dignity, but when the cause of Protestantism became 
prominent and made increasing demands upon him, he failed 
her at every step. Their kingdom was soon recognized as 
being the stronghold of the Huguenots. Here gathered the 
adversaries of the Guises, and here the men who died at Am- 

150 



JEANNE DE NAVARRfi 

boise, the followers of Maligny, must often have discussed their 
designs. Jeanne inspired and reinforced them. She organ- 
ized troops for the future ; she held State-Councils ; she chose 
officials and passed decrees which materially aided the Protes- 
tants. Elizabeth of England herself could not have better 
chosen her men and was not as originative a statesman as the 
Queen of Navarre. Jeanne wove, as it were, a strong web of 
tolerant legislation which, in a happier day, should have made 
an ideal kingdom. And while, single-minded, she threw herself 
into the movement, she tried to draw her husband after her. 
When she was in sight he followed, but her presence once 
removed, he succumbed to other influences. The Guises 
had bribed two of his chief Councillors to betray him, and he 
fell into the hands of these spies, an easy prey to their cunning. 
He stopped to dally and to temporize, and the enemy triumphed 
while he waited. Or, worse still, he acted precipitately in a 
sudden access of energy, such as comes to irresolute people. 

Perhaps all this helped to force his wife into action and to es- 
tablish her as leader of her party. It was well that at the moment 
of personal disappointment this great cause was absorbing 
her and employing all the dangerous forces which would other- 
wise have fed upon themselves. Like her mother, she had a 
generous love of protecting the oppressed, though perhaps 
the protection was inclined to be a trifle despotic. But she 
made herself the champion of young converts to the New 
Opinions whose families objected to their views, and amongst 
her ladies there were several girls whom she had rescued. The 
memory of beatings once endured made her kind, and some of 
the pleading letters that she wrote show her at her best. There 
is one to a cousin of hers, a certain Madame de Langey, about 
her daughter. 

" I have, as you know, nobody whom I need obey, but if my 
God had so afflicted me as to let some one wish to coerce me, 
... I would rather endure death than obey the creature before 
the Creator. And this makes me entreat you. Cousin, to try 
and overcome the hatred that you bear your daughter and to 
give her all honest liberty. It it vexes you to keep her near 
you since she has a different faith from your own, I beg you 
to send her to me. I assure you that many girls of like fate 
live with me — girls of very good birth, and some, even, whose 
parents have opposite views to those that we profess. And 
yet they leave them with me, to live according to their con- 

151 



n 



CATHERINE DE* MEDICI 

• Or to quote another letter : 

" You must not be surprised if, having heard of the way 
that you are supposed to have been behaving to your daughter, 
I, on my part, am as much offended with you as I can be. I 
cannot imagine how a mother who has such a good and virtuous 
daughter by a man of honour like your husband, can possibly 
show her such inhuman cruelty as rumour ascribes to you, to 
your marvellous discredit {merveilleuse dereputation). To 
remedy the which. Cousin, I was very willing to tell you 
frankly that if it is only her religion which causes you to have 
thus perturbed and irritated yourself, you must remember 
that the strong hand of God, which cuts both ways . . . separ- 
ates the father from his children . . . and that there exists no 
religion in which cruelty and irrational inhumanity find a 
place." 

These last words expressed a deep-rooted conviction and 
one which distinguished her from the narrower Puritans. 
Mercy was part of her creed and all persecution disgusted her. 
She could never have said with Renee of Ferrara, " If I knew 
that the King, my father, and the Queen, my mother, and my 
late husband, and all my children would be disapproved of by 
God, I would hate them and desire hell for them." It is true 
that Calvin had been reproving the Duchess for lukewarmness 
to her enemies, but under no circumstances would Jeanne 
have made such a confession. Renee was anxious to shine in 
the implacable eyes of her Director and had evidently grown 
rather jealous of the Queen of Navarre's importance. She 
complains that Jeanne had been admitted to a great clerical 
Council from which she had been excluded, and is hardly 
mollified by receiving an etrenne from Calvin — an ttrenne of 
the Genevan school, consisting of a gold medal inscribed with 
an insult to the Pope. The two ladies had a kind of rivalry, 
too, about their Huguenot ministers, and when they joined 
the Court at Blois they respectively brought their men with 
them and made them preach in turn. The Cardinal reproached 
Jeanne with infringement of the King's decrees, but she alleged 
the royal permission to hold " Preches," given her long since at 
Lyons ; whereupon Catherine again authorized the services 
both in her case and that of Renee, so long as they were held 
in the Princesses' apartments and were only attended by their 
people. 

Catherine's temporizing, however, did not at all suit the 
Queen of Navarre, nor was that lady's zeal less antipathetic to 

152 



JEANNE DE NAVARRE 

the Regent. " At last, when she saw that she was hard- 
pressed and that I did not beHeve her, she began to laugh," 
wrote Jeanne, who was paying a visit to Catherine : " For, 
mark this, she never talks to me except in a bantering tone, as 
you will see by our conversation. She unsaid many of the 
things that she said to M. Biron. . . . My gentleman is at the 
end of his cunning ; he does not know what he ought to say. 
On the one hand, he is afraid of the Queen, on the other, I 
reproach him (always with a laugh), and tell him that he has 
cozened me. He shrugs his shoulders and tries to invent 
excuses for the Queen the best way he can. ..." 

And later, in the same letter, to her friend M. de Beauvoir : 
" I marvel how I can bear all the trouble that the folk here 
have given me. They scratch me, they prick me, they flatter 
me, they brave me ; they want to get everything out of me, 
without showing their game. In short, I have only one follower 
who walks straight, and that is Martin, in spite of his gout. 
And then there is M. le Comte who does me all the kind offices 
imaginable . . . But as for myself, by God's grace, I fortify 
myself from one hour to another and I assure you that I tho- 
roughly keep in mind your injunction not to get into a rage, 
for they try me to the very uttermost. I show the most 
beautiful patience that ever you saw. But I believe that they 
rebuff me like this to drive me to appeal to the Judges." 

Her mission to the Court concerned the matter nearest her 
heart — liberty of worship ; she got half-way measures for her 
pains, but no half-way measures contented her. " The 
religious privileges granted us will not suffice to nourish souls 
aflame for heavenly food — for the which cause we have fought 
and wrestled the best part of our lives ! " she cried ; and later 
she bursts out to Catherine : " We will all die rather than leave 
our God and our religion, which we cannot maintain without 
worship, any more than a body can live without eating and 
drinking ... I entreat you very humbly. Madam, to believe 
that the affairs of the soul are not conducted like those of the 
body, for there is but one salvation, to which there is but one 
road, wherefore that which we propose to you is what we can 
propose, neither more nor less." 

But single-minded though Jeanne was, she did not lack the 
wisdom of the serpent. When three of her chief ministers were 
cited before the Court of Orleans for seditious opinions, she 
boldly refused to allow them to go and meet a probable death. 
At the same time she was wise enough to forbid their teaching 

153 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

throughout the Duchy of Albret. When the intolerant 
Cardinal d'Armagnac was made Inquisitor-General of that 
territory (an appointment which lay with the Cardinal de 
Lorraine as Chief Commissioner), Jeanne warily compelled 
her Bishops to forbid public disputations on rehgious matters 
throughout the province. This was as well, for when the 
Inquisitor, in the full splendour of state, halted in the streets of 
Oleron to give his blessing to the people, the crowd, refusing to 
kneel, would only laugh and bid him pass on. The Cardinal 
revenged himself by arresting the minister, Barran, but he 
reckoned without his host. The Queen of Navarre recognized 
that the moment for prudence had passed. She pronounced 
the prelate's measure to be illegal and set the prisoner at liberty. 
No doubt as she grew in power she also grew more exacting. 
"His Holiness the Pope" — writes one of Catherine's corre- 
spondents from Rome — " always defends himself by saying 
that the aforesaid lady (the Queen of Navarre) not content 
to let folly enjoy the liberty given by your Edicts, forces the 
conscience of her subjects." There may have been some truth 
in this, but, after all, Jeanne's tyranny was the tyranny of a 
fervent nature and, in the main, she kept up her own fine 
standard of freedom. 

She trained her son to follow her example. For as her illusions 
died away and it was clearly borne in upon her that Antoine could 
never lead the Reformers, all her hopes and efforts centred in 
her boy. He should achieve the task of which his father was 
not worthy and she would spare no trouble to fit him for the 
battle. A knowledge of the world and a broad culture must 
form part, so she deemed, of his mental equipment, and she 
chose as his tutor a certain M. de Beau voir, a forcible man 
who acquired great influence over her. But she herself took 
an active part in the prince's lessons. Every day she set him 
a passage to translate into Latin or Greek and to put back into 
the original language, and when she was away from home 
these exercises were sent to her for correction. By the time 
Henri was eight years old he had, with his mother's help, 
translated the greater part of Plato, and his brilliant intelli- 
gence, joined to an impressionable nature, encouraged her 
sanguine dreams for him. She began very early to give him 
insight into affairs — sometimes to refer them to him — and to 
make him her comrade and confidant. 

"My son" (she writes to him), " I have received your letter 
and I am very glad that you are so well and that PistoUe has 

154 



JEANNE DE NAVARRE 

had puppies. . . . The day I got here, your cousin arrived, 
but he is not nearly so tall as you. I think it is because he is 
too much in love. . . . We celebrated Ricquete's wedding, 
but I confess that your absence took away half of my 
enjoyment. My cousin is taking me to Poitiers to see his lady- 
love. I send you the report that Captain Moreau brought me 
that you may think over it and give me your advice. . . . 
Above all be careful, as much for the sake of duty as example, 
to hear Preches often and prayers every day, and to obey and 
believe in M. De Beau voir, as you have always done so wisely ; 
and don't fail to listen to some lessons from M. de Francourt, 
as you promised. Young M. Puche is dead. . . . Madame 
de Vaulx arrived the same day that I did. Now, my son, I 
have written everything that I can to you and I pray God to 
help you in all things. 

Your good mother and friend, 

Jehanne. 

And later, from the Court at Blois, whither there was talk 
of his coming : 

" Do, pray, attend to three things — to look well to the graces 
of behaviour and to talk boldly, even when you are summoned 
to private interviews, for remember that the impression you 
make when you arrive will stamp the opinion that will thence- 
forth be held of you.- . . . And train your hair to grow upwards. 
... No one here at Court can believe in your height. As for 
me, I think you are as tall as M. le Due, who is about an inch 
shorter than the measure brought by Saint-Martin. . . . Your 
sister has a very bad cough and is still in bed. She drinks 
ass's milk and calls the little donkey her foster-brother. That 
is all I can tell you. 

From your good mother and best friend, 

Jehanne. 

What a link is tenderness, what a modern, what an ancient 
thing is the love of mothers ! Jeanne's letter would have said 
the same things had it been written yesterday, or in the Middle 
Ages. There is always a touching note of pride when she talks 
of her little girl, Catherine, whom she had with her on this 
journey. " You cannot think " (she writes to M. de Beau voir) 
" how pretty my daughter is at this Court. Everyone attacks 
her about her religion ; she holds her own against them and 
never gives in by a jot — and all the world loves her." 

155 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Jeanne needed her children more than ever, for Antoine was 
drifting far from her. His weakness grew more prominent, 
more tangible, and betrayed both his cause and her. From 
this time forward, his infidelities became public talk and a 
scandal to the Protestant party. Theodore de Beze, their 
chief minister, wrote to tell her of his sympathy and support, 
though the only comfort he offered was the thought of Antoine's 
death. " Your letters " — ^he concludes — "give me more occasion 
than ever to sigh in my heart because I have no means of 
serving you, though you need it as never before. . . . But take 
courage. Madam, more and more, that you may overcome 
temptation, however grievous, by the strength and goodness 
of Him in Whom and by Whom all things turn into blessing and 
consolation." 

And yet, even now, Antoine had brief returns of his love 
for her. " It seems to me, my dear," he wrote, a short time 
before Beze's letter, " that I have felt the love I bear you more 
keenly through all that has been happening than I have done 
since first I knew you. . . . And I beg you, darhng, to do what 
you write in your last letter. It is thus that I shall make 
sure of renouncing all the light behaviour which too often gives 
a dog a bad name. . . . 

" Your very affectionate friend and most loyal husband, 

*' Antoine." 

The " most loyal husband " was, at about that time, be- 
ginning his connection with La belle Rouet — the connection 
which completed his moral ruin. For Catherine and the 
Guises had sent her from out the " Flying Squadron " to bribe 
him back to Catholicism, just as in Conde's case they had sent 
Isabelle de Limeuil. It was during the Council of Poissy 
that these base feats of strategy took place, the assembly which 
drew to one place all the actors in the great religious drama. 
And thus it was here that Jeanne d*Albret underwent the 
crucial moment of her life ; for her position both as a Protestant 
and as a wife was strangely affected by the events she witnessed 
at Poissy. 



156 



CHAPTER VIII 

The Council of Poissy 



157 



AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 



Lettres de Catherine de* Medici. 

Histoire de T^^glise Reformee — TModore de Bize. 

Histoire Universelle — Agrippine d'Aubigne. 

Sur le Rdgne de Francois II — Regnier de la Planche. 

Memoirs de Marguerite de Navarre. 

Memoirs de Henri II — Archives Curieuses. 

Memoirs du Prince de Conde. 

Memoirs de Tavannes. 

Relations de la Diplomatic Venitienne — Baschet. 

Biographical Introductions to the "Lettres de Catherine de' Medici." 

Jeanne d'Albret — Miss Freer. 

Histoire de France — Michelet. 

Histoire de ^roxicor— Martin. 



158 



CHAPTER VIII 

The Council of Poissy 

THE accession of Charles IX, who was barely ten years old, 
gave Antoine de Bourbon his opportunity, and it might 
have been also the turning point in the fortunes of the Reforma- 
tion party. Had he grasped the moment, the course of French 
Protestantism would have altered and he himself would pro- 
bably have figured as its leader. iFor after the death of 
Francois II, Catherine took her resolution. Her first aim was 
the Regency, and this she saw she could not establish without 
possessing powerful allies. The choice lay between the Guises 
and the Bourbon Princes and, as she knew that while the Guises 
reigned her Regency could only be nominal, she finally decided 
for the Bourbons. She united herself more and more closely 
with the King of Navarre, making him Lieutenant-General 
of the kingdom. He had everything in his hands, but his 
hands were nerveless. " Can one " — says a contemporary — 
" count upon the judgment of a man who is frivolous enough 
to wear rings on his fingers and ear-rings like a woman, in 
spite of his age and his white hair ? " As usual Antoine shifted 
to this side and to that, incapable of teUing the truth to either, 
frightened of Spain, corresponding with PhiHp II, and yet at 
the same moment giving oaths and promises to the Huguenots. 
"In an important matter," says the same old writer, " he 
follows the advice of his sycophants and of light persons . . . 
and I can attest that in affairs concerning rehgion he has 
shown neither firmness nor wisdom." Flattered by Catherine 
and cajoled by fair words, " 1^ hints even of a distant prospect 
of the French crown," "I'Echangeur," Antoine, succumbed 
to his love of ease and splendour and inclined more and more 
towards Catholicism. 

Conde was more difficult to capture. When he came out 
of his prison, he swore that he would never hear Mass again, 
and his creed, at least, remained consistent. In other ways, 

159 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

too, he was much more dangerous than his brother, dangerous, 
that is to say, in the Guises' sense of the word. For he ex- 
ercised an influence over Catherine possessed by no other human 
being. She was fascinated by him altogether ; his keenness 
and his briUiance, his ready resource, his spirit of adventure, 
appealed to her effect-loving temperament. She was perhaps 
as near being in love with him as it lay in her nature to be. 
That she had immured him in a dungeon had no apparent 
weight with either of them. That had been part of a political 
necessity, by no means of their personal relations, which for 
the next few years made the drama of Protestantism in France. 
He played, as it were, the role of Essex to her Elizabeth, 
though the analogy must be taken with reservations. The 
character of their connection was neither warm nor decided, 
and, not to speak of the immense difference of nationality 
between the two Queens, Catherine was never the woman to 
give herself away. But in Conde's half interested intimacy 
with her ; in the way he thwarted while he dominated, careless 
alike of her bursts of petulance and her inability to do without 
him ; in the romantic ambitions which he cherished, indifferent 
to the feelings that he crushed on the road to fulfilment — 
in all this he reminds us of the great Adventurer-Earl, the 
rebel-dreamer, who used a Queen as his pawn. 

Very different were her relations to Coligny. Throughout 
his life she respected, even when she most hated him, and there 
was perhaps no moment of her Regency when she did not 
secretly fear him. Not without reason. For he wielded a 
two-edged power : the primitive power of the rude soldier 
and the unconscious power of goodness. His goodness affected 
all who had intercourse with him, especially young people. 
Had Catherine allowed it, the little King, Charles IX, would 
have fallen completely beneath his sway. The boy was just 
ten years old. " Truth to say," writes a Protestant chronicler, 
"he is gifted with brilliant and lively wits, his bearing is 
serious and modest, his speech gentle and full of kindness ; 
grace and gaiety meet in his countenance. . . . One may with 
reason found great hopes upon him, if Heaven watches over 
his days." With such a disposition, it was natural that he 
grew to love and trust the Admiral, to look on him as the only 
rock amid the glittering quicksands which surrounded him. 
And one of the most interesting things about Coligny is the 
fact of his passionate loyalty to the throne. Loyalty, indeed, 
it was which prompted his revolt against tyranny and^the 

i6o 



THE COUNCIL OF POISSY 

Guises. If he planned a religious Republic, it was in despair 
of otherwise attaining his ideal of a State, and could he have 
brought up the King as a Protestant ruler, he would have 
preferred it to aught else. Conde was a rebel, because he would 
have liked to supplant the King for the sake of his own success ; 
Coligny would never have usurped the throne, and if at one 
time he thought of himself as the President of a Commonwealth, 
it was as the embodiment of a principle which could be carried 
out in no other way. Thus, at the time of the Council of 
Poissy, he was still standing on the border-line : between the new 
King from whom he expected much, whom he wished to make 
the head of Protestantism— and the Cause of Protestantism, 
which was greater in his eyes than any monarch. Had Catherine 
owned one noble aim or been capable of protesting against 
the Guises, had she been for one hour a frank woman, she 
might have kept Coligny for the Crown. 

For the Council of Poissy was her opportunity. The chief 
Catholics and Protestants were to meet and discuss their 
points of difference together. The whole conception of this 
effort at reconciliation was a big idea and belonged to her alone. 
It represented the best in her — that large intellectual taste for 
unity which, had it been backed by an adequate morahty^ 
would have made her play a splendid role in history. And the 
early days of the Council, when it kept the stamp of her first 
intention, before the Guises had worked their will, make the 
finest chapter in her Hfe. But the attempt had no soHd results 
and we cannot but ask ourselves why. Whatever the surface 
reasons, we come back to the chief cause— the want of a guid- 
ing principle by which to steer the State. This is a negative 
reason, but there was a more positive one connected with it. 
For though Catherine had no directing conviction, she had a 
fixed idea by which all her actions were ruled — her determination 
to keep the Regency. Everything bowed before this ambition ; 
she trimmed her sails according to its dictates. Often begin- 
ning in one set direction, her bark would suddenly veer round 
and shift its course, because she had sighted some possible reef 
in her way, or the chance of fresh assistance from an opposite 
quarter. But as always, when private desires are put in the 
place of larger aims, this resolve of hers corroded the atmo- 
sphere. No good movement, no large thought could live in it, 
and the Council of Poissy degenerated because it became a 
struggle to win the Bourbons without incensing the Guises. 
Of no one can we say more truly than of Catherine that the 

i6i M 



/ 



CATHERINE DF MEDICI 

truth was not in her. She put up her own idol in the place of 
a God, and it was worse than if the shrine had been empty. 

She had reason to be afraid, for her Regency was anything 
but established, in spite of many outward dignities and some 
privileges that it brought her — the right, for instance, to hold 
immediate intercourse with ambassadors, instead of through 
the intervention of the Cardinal. But such things meant little 
in the face of danger, and there was danger from within and 
from without. At home there was her unpopularity, which 
had not grown less with the years. The Regency of a woman 
was excessively disliked — had even been condemned by the 
Etats ; and there was, moreover, the original feeling against 
her as a parvenue. " Perhaps," writes an old Huguenot, 
*' it suffices to say that the Queen is a woman and, what is more, 
a foreign woman. Let us add that she is a Florentine, bom 
to a private condition far from the greatness of the French 
Throne. And so she has neither the credit nor the authority 
which she might perhaps have had if she had been bom to the 
Crown, or, at all events, come of noble stock.'* These hostile 
opinions made themselves felt. There was a moment when the 
States-General — ces fols as she called them for their pains — 
voted that she should not be Regent. She characteristically 
suspected her new ally, Navarre, of having planned this attack 
that he himself might gain the place she vacated. But her 
letter of accusation only put her in the wrong and gave him a 
fresh hold over her. For not only was he able to deny her 
charge, but to point out all that was his by right of his Bourbon 
blood and all that he had generously renounced for her sake. 
The States-General were eventually appeased by his appoint- 
ment to the Lieutenancy and the coveted honour was left her, 
but its tenure was still insecure and she knew no peace of mind. 
" God first deprived me of your father," she wrote to her 
daughter in Spain, " and, not content with that. He has now 
deprived me of your brother, whom I loved you know not how 
much ; and He has left me with three little children and a 
kingdom torn asunder, without a single soul I can tum to who 
is not possessed by party passion." 

Nor was her position easier with regard to the Powers 
outside the kingdom. The Pope was naturally suspicious of 
her attitude towards the heretics. The Emperor, keen to 
regain Metz, was watching for a pretext of warfare. Elizabeth 
of England had fixed a wakeful eye upon Calais, while the 
Duke of Savoy had designs on certain cities in Piedmont. 

162 



THE COUNCIL OF POISSY 

And Spain, the most dangerous foe of all, tied to her by mar- 
riage, divided from her by ambition — Spain, the " arbiter of 
Europe," whose interests agreed with hers only so long as she 
remained a Catholic — Spain surrounded her with spies and 
confronted her craft with greater cunning. There was a rumour 
that Phihp had bribed the Due de Guise and meant to invade 
France through his agency — a peril by no means fictitious, for 
the Guises, alarmed at the ascendancy of the Bourbons, would 
have stuck at nothing to keep their power. They had also 
an effectual friend in Chantonnay, the Envoy (more properly 
the detective) whom Philip sent to reside at Catherine's Court. 
This man, wary as a lynx and a true son of the Inquisition, was 
henceforth to play a leading part in her life, dogging her foot- 
steps, knowing every detail of her days, and reporting them to his 
master. She, on her side, was as resolute in trying to mask 
her actions from him, and a great part of the next two years 
was taken up by the match of wits between them — the acute 
game of chess that this well-suited couple played together, 
occasionally, it would seem, for the pure enjoyment of catching 
one another out. 

Hemmed in as Catherine was by all these risks, the course 
that she now adopted was as much a proof of real courage as 
it was a bid for the support of the Bourbons. For when, in 
December, 1561, she convoked the States-General, she openly 
espoused the policy of her noble and heretical Chancellor, 
Michel de THopital. The occasion was an impressive one and 
framed in an impressive setting. " At the feet of the King 
sat Monsieur de Guise on his chair, in virtue of his office as 
Grand Mai tre-d' Hotel. By his side, but at a good distance 
to the right, sat Monsieur le Connetable, and on his other hand, 
to the left . . . Monsieur de I'Hopital, Keeper of the Seals 
of France." De I'Hopital opened the campaign by an eloquent 
plea for tolerance, one of those great speeches which seemed to 
come straight from his heart. In spite of the Catholic nobles, 
the tone of the House was Huguenot. The majority inclined 
to Coligny's proposal that the two Churches should live on 
equal terms, side by side. It is curious, indeed, to remark 
how much this view was taken as a matter of course, even by 
the Broad Church Party, who had not as yet joined the Re- 
formers. " In our religion, there are two sects," spoke a 
certain Depute from Angers, " one living in obedience to the 
Roman Church, the other calling itself Evangelical, and both 
are so numerous that it would be hard to say which counted 

163 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

the most adherents." Another member, the Sieur de Silly, 
boldly opposed the exemption of the Church from taxation 
and proposed that its property should be used to defray State 
debts. There was much debating, much bitter warfare, but 
the final result was rHopital's "Ordinance of Orleans," a fine 
measure that promoted freedom of belief and adopted some 
of the reforms which the General Assembly had suggested. 
The New Opinions were preached every day in the house of the 
Condes, and at Court in the apartments of the Admiral. 
Chantonnay warned Catherine that if these doings continued 
he would get her sent away to Chenonceaux. The Constable — 
who had recently allied himself with the Guises and so become 
stringently orthodox — pronounced these Preches to be intol- 
erable ; he prayed, he said, that the roof might fall in and 
destroy such wicked congregations. He and the Due de 
Guise, on their way to hear the Court sermon, learned that 
the preacher was to be a certain Bishop whose tendencies 
were larger than they liked, and they turned back from the 
door. Their absence did not pass unnoticed, and when 
Catherine questioned Guise about its reason, he burst out upon 
her and said that he and his had made her Regent in order that 
she might defend the Faith — that were it not for this, the 
Princes of the Blood had a better claim. She let his anger 
find a vent, but later she went to visit him at Nanteuil. It 
was a strange interview, typical of her cautious policy. Lead- 
ing the conversation to religion, " Would you" — she asked — 
" remain true to me, if I and my son changed our faith ? " 
" No, I should not," he answered, " but as long as you keep 
to the faith of your forefathers, I would give my life in your 
cause." 

Matters could not rest here and the Duke, strong in his 
alliance with the Constable, took his own measures. He, 
together with his brother and the Due de Nemours, made a 
plot to kidnap the little Prince Henri, younger brother of 
Charles IX. Having got hold of him one day, they plied him 
with questions. The unconscious child had been romping 
with his playmate, the Prince de Joinville, son of the Due de 
Guise, when they called him away from his game. They asked 
him if he were a Papist or a Huguenot. " I am of my mother's 
religion," he warily replied. The Due de Nemours tried to 
tempt him to go away with him to Lorraine, but the Prince 
only said that his mother would not like him to desert the 
King. Meanwhile the Due de Guise, standing with his back 

164 



THE COUNCIL OF POISSY 

to the fire, was carelessly talking to his boy as if unconscious 
of what was happening. But young Joinville had been pre- 
pared for his part ; he was to coax his friend to come with them, 
to dwell on the pleasures of travel, the beauties of the castle in 
Lorraine, the good cheer that he would find there. He would 
be much more petted, he was told, than ever he was at home. 
Joinville performed his task to perfection and spoke his words 
as he had learned them ; but there was one thing his teacher 
had left out — the fact that his pupil was a boy. When Henri 
gaily asked him how they would go, his comrade, forgetting 
everything but comradeship, told him with glee that he would 
have to descend from a window by night and drive oi^ in a 
coach that would await him. The Prince naturally confided 
this strange plan to his mother, who lost no time in writing a 
letter to Spain. With diplomatic presence of mind, she begged 
Philip to advise her how to deal with Nemours — " Knowing as 
I do the friendship that there is between us, the which must 
sorely displease folk of such malice as he and his, and im- 
pelleth them to ask your help under cover of religion." But 
Philip, well-informed, was not to be hoodwinked, and Chan- 
tonnay's ill-temper continued. There were frequent scenes, 
frequent explanations. In the face of all this she showed, we 
must repeat, a fine boldness by persisting in her path of toler- 
ance : by writing, for instance, such letters as the following 
to Spain, addressed to the Archbishop of Limoges, her resident 
ambassador there. 

" Let us come to religion ; for as new accidents arise there 
must also be new medicaments, until we have discovered the 
one remedy which can work an entire cure. For twenty or 
thirty years now, we have tried cauterizing — attempting thus 
to burn out the contagion of this disease from among us ; and 
we have seen by experience that this violence has only served 
to increase it. For owing to the severe punishments which 
have constantly been given in this kingdom, an infinite number 
of poor people have become confirmed in these belief s. So that 
many persons of good judgment have thought that there was 
nothing which so prevented the destruction of these new opinions 
as the public execution of those who professed them, since, 
as every one saw, it only fortified them in their faith. . . . The 
ashes of the fire which has gone out are still so hot that the 
least spark will make them leap up into bigger flames than we 
have ever seen." 

" The times," (she says elsewhere) *' no longer permit us to 

165 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

deal forth death and rigourous justice, as in the past. For the 
evil has grown so much . . . that the wisest thing we can do 
is to keep things tranquil." Nor, as she grew surer of the Bour- 
bons, was she slow to indict the Guises. " All the trouble " 
(she tells her daughter Elizabeth) " is purely caused by the 
hatred that the country feels for the Cardinal de Lorraine and 
the Due de Guise, for I find there is a general belief that I 
mean to restore them to power. This I have emphatically 
denied. For why should I do anything for them ? You know 
how they treated me in the lifetime of the late King, your bro- 
ther. I am quite resolved to be mixed up in their quarrels 
no longer, for I know full well that, if they could have done so, 
they would themselves have seized the Regency and abandoned 
me to my fate — the sort of thing they always do if they can 
reap either power or money. That is all they have in their 
hearts . . . and as for my love for them, they are only amazed 
by it." For once we can sympathize with the Guises. Who 
could feel otherwise than amazed at a love which took such 
strange forms ? 

Her pages on these topics do not seem to have produced much 
effect, if we may judge by the tartness of another note to Eliza- 
beth of Spain. " As for what you say in your letter which your 
ambassador brought me this morning ... I beg you not to 
trouble yourself about me, for, thank God, I begin to be so well 
established that no one can now do me any harm. ... I en- 
treat your husband to answer those who press him that, as they 
know no more how to govern the affairs of this country than I 
know how to govern those of Spain, I should be much obliged 
if they would be so kind as not to meddle at all." 

Meanwhile, the state of affairs was growing more acute. There 
had been bad religious riots in the provinces ; there were brawls 
between the two sects in the streets of Paris — for Paris was 
bitterly hostile to Catherine's policy of tolerance. They con- 
stantly ended in barbarous murders on both sides and Ca- 
therine saw herself defeated. She and THopital had tried 
every parliamentary method of appeasement — the opening of 
a Council at Fontainebleau — of a Clerical Convocation — of the 
States-General. A few days before St. John's Eve, in 1561, 
the King, the Queen-Mother, the Bourbon Princes, and the 
Chatillons met together in the great Golden Chamber of the 
Palais de Justice and sat there from seven in the morning till 
near noon, " discussing the means of restoring union between 
the citizens of France." In the courtyard below there had 

166 



THE COUNCIL OF POISSY 

gathered a crowd of " fifteen hundred and more, among them 
a good sprinkling of Huguenots," who were waiting to see the 
royal train come out of the Palais, and hear what had been 
decided within. " But we were all disappointed, I with the 
rest, for that day I, too, was waiting about," writes a contem- 
porary diarist. When the councillors emerged, they had re- 
solved on nothing, and went home to dine before their afternoon 
sitting. In vain, however, did the throng expect their return. 
They never came, and when a messenger was despatched to beg 
them to finish their debate, they only sent word that His Ma- 
jesty was ill and that the assembly was adjourned for another 
four months. 

At that moment all the Regent's energies were badly needed \ 
at Court. The ashes, as she said, still smouldered, and the rivalry 
between the Guises and the Bourbons had reached alarming 
proportions. Navarre claimed the key of the Chateau of Fon- 
tainebleau as his official right : the Cardinal refused to give 
it him and Navarre said one of them must go. " He called for 
his horses and mules, had his bed trousse ^ and his servants 
booted, ready to start, for he said that he would never stay in 
the same place with the Duke," wrote Catherine. ..." and 
for all the blandishments and prayers and remonstrances, and 

the other means that I used, I could do nothing Nevertheless, 

I have now so managed that the whole business is smoothed 
over." This meant that Antoine's wordy bluster had charac- 
teristically ended in his staying on, defeated ; but though it was 
a victory for the Guises and their followers, Catherine knew 
how to make it sour to them. She drew nearer to the Princes 
every day. Chantonnay demanded that she should send away 
CoHgny and the Cardinal de Chatillon. She refused, and 
straight upon this, Preches were held in the King's apartments. 
Chantonnay protested angrily, but his voice was drowned in 
psalm-singing, while a crowd assembled outside till the guard 
was sent to scatter them. Chantonnay once more renewed 
his futile efforts against the Chatillons with no more result than 
heretofore. The strain was telling upon the Regent's health 
and she complained of her sufferings to the Envoy. He blandly 
retorted that he had heard her illness was the result of self- 
indulgence — that she nearly killed herself by the number of 
melons that she ate. Catherine replied with disgust that it 
was not the fruits of the garden which caused her pain, but 
the fruits of the spirit. 

1 Folded. 
167 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

At length in a Convocation of the Clergy the great scheme 
of the Council of Poissy was brought forward as a remedy. 
There was hot discussion, there were a hundred difficulties, but 
they ended in agreement. The various Reformed Churches 
were to write down in due form the propositions that they 
wished to be discussed, to append their several signatures, send 
the document to Poissy and — most important of their functions 
— elect a deputy to debate on the points at issue with a leading 
prelate of the other side, in the presence of the whole Assembly. 
That the Cardinal de Lorraine agreed to this was a matter for 
surprise ; he did so, it was thought, because he counted on the 
differences that would arise between the Lutherans and the 
Calvinists to invalidate the Council and nulHfy its results. Both 
parties braced themselves for the duel, the Guises and the Con- 
stable on one side, the Bourbons and the Chatillons on the 
other ; while Catherine was fencing with Chantonnay and, 
secure in the friendship of Navarre, played fast and loose with 
his enemies. 

II 

The Monastery of Poissy was at no great distance from Saint- 
Germain, where the Court assembled for the Conference. At 
first there was some talk of Calvin as the Protestant representa- 
tive, but Catherine and Coligny decided that his presence would 
hardly be politic and his disciple de Beze was chosen in his 
stead. De Beze arrived in the late June of 1561, with twelve 
attendant ministers and their families — a sober caravan de- 
scending like a flight of rooks amid the tropical plumage of the 
Court. " They declare themselves the enemies of luxury," 
says old de Raymond. ..." Instead of hautboys and dancing, 
they have Bible-readings and H3nims. . . . Their women, 
modest in bearing and dress, appear in pubhc like to mourning 
Eves." 

Against this stern background stands out the more vividly 
the figure of their leader. Theodore de Beze was, so to speak, 
the Fenelon of the Huguenot party — a much smaller and less 
significant Fenelon, but an understander of hearts, especially 
the hearts of women. Jeanne de Navarre and Eleonore de 
Conde were not the only ladies he directed and consoled, and 
his ministrations were helped by his eloquent personality. " Of 
a well-discoursing tongue, finely pointed by the noble and ex- 
pressive French language, he also had the mien and the gestures 
which drew the hearts and wills of his hearers," so says a con- 

168 



THE COUNCIL OF POISSY 

temporary chronicler who must often have heard him. Such 
a man was destined to become the fashion, and when he left 
for the Council " all Geneva wept for his going." One his- 
torian goes so far as to say that, without Calvin, de Beze would 
have been nothing better than " a Httle seventh-rate Catullus " ; 
but this did not mean much more than that he had a 
weakness for writing Latin verses — elaborate compositions, 
which he dedicated to great ladies. Esprit elegant et souple, 
subtil et passionne — such is the vivid summary of a modern 
critic and one which Calvin would have endorsed ; for none 
knew better than he how to value the Hghter qualities in his 
servants. 

The twelve ministers " were better received than the Pope 
of Rome could have been " and found sumptuous lodgings in 
the houses of various grandees. The day after their arrival, de 
Beze held Preches in the Prince de Conde's apartment, which 
was full to overflowing. That same evening, he was summoned 
to Catherine's room and found her there together with Conde 
and the Cardinal de Lorraine, the Broad Church Cardinal de 
Bourbon and the heretical Madame de Crussol. Catherine 
gave de Beze the most gracious reception and, after many 
courtly amenities, expressed her hope that the discussions 
about to take place might be so conducted as to bring peace 
to the kingdom. The Cardinal de Lorraine followed suit ; he 
knew de Beze already by repute and through his writings, he 
said, and he added with a suave irony that as he had disturbed 
the kingdom by his absence, he hoped he would pacify it by 
his presence. Whereupon there ensued one of those astonish- 
ing debates in which Catherine loved to exercise her wits, — a 
discussion, " mats d armes courtoises,^^ concerning the Eu- 
charist : " in the which they proceeded, yet ever with charit- 
able purpose ; for they sought the terms that made them meet, 
rather than the terms which divided them." De Beze had 
been wisely chosen by Calvin as his delegate. If the Cardinal 
were to be confronted it must be by a man of the world, and de 
Beze had enough of the wisdom of the serpent to parry a dan- 
gerous thrust. He took refuge in mystic definitions ; "the secret 
of the faith" (he said) "was incomprehensible to the senses," 
a conclusion with which the Cardinal professed himself 
to be delighted. Turning to the Regent he remarked that 
he now felt great hopes from the Conference and then, caressing 
de Beze — " I am very glad indeed to have heard you ! " he 
exclaimed "... you will find that I am not so black as I am 

169 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

painted." Catherine withdrew with her train, but Madame de 
Crussol remained behind. She was a shrewd woman and she 
knew the Cardinal of Lorraine. " Being very free of tongue " 
— wrote de Beze — " she declared that some one must fetch pen 
and ink and that the Cardinal must sign what he had said, for 
he would be sure to say the contrary to-morrow. In the which 
she proved to have guessed right, for the next day a report had 
been spread throughout the Court that the Cardinal had, from 
the first, confounded and conquered de Beze. But when, at 
dinner, the Constable in great glee announced these tidings to 
the Queen, she replied in a loud voice that she herself had been 
present and that he was most ill-informed." The incensed 
Chantonnay, who had probably heard the whole affair straight 
from the lips of the Cardinal, was not slow to report it at head- 
quarters. He lost no time, either, in seeking an interview with 
Catherine and covering her with reproaches, but she put him 
off with generalities. It was only one of the many stormy in- 
terviews that took place throughout the Conference. *' You 
can hide nothing from me, Madam, I know every detail of your 
days," he once cried in exasperation, but his hot words only 
rebounded as from some polished frozen surface. 

Long disputations as to modes of procedure followed the ar- 
rival of the ministers. The Catholic prelates, on occasion, came 
to blows, so much were they at variance with each other. Ca- 
therine summoned the Protestants to a private colloquy in the 
palace, that she might inculcate the need of pacification and 
talk over the subjects chosen for debate : Baptism, the Sacra- 
ment, the Laying on of Hands, and Ordination. And she was 
anxious that they should not stop at definitions, but compare 
their institutions with those of the Primitive Church and pa- 
tiently study the causes that had led to the present separation 
between the Roman Church and themselves. These matters 
once resolved, there still remained the choice of the umpires 
who were to adjudicate the issues of the S3niod. The ministers 
waited upon Catherine and begged her to let them be judged 
" by the Word of God alone " — to be present herself, and also 
to allow them two secretaries who would take down verbatim 
what they said. She agreed that in any case they should not 
have ecclesiastics as arbitrators, and they left her presence con- 
tented. Hardly had they gone, when they were followed by 
twelve Sorbonnists who angrily petitioned her to forbid dispu- 
tation on the part of such heretics as did not recognize Bishops. 
They were angry when she opposed them ; still more so, when 

170 



THE COUNCIL OF POISSY 

she also refused their request to let the debates be in private.* 
The strength of the Protestants was reinforced by the arrival 
of Jeanne d'Albret at Saint-Germain. Wherever she passed on 
her journey — like some Deborah of Israel — she put new heart 
into the Huguenots. The report that her husband had been 
present at Mass had impelled her to set out for the Council, and 
perhaps her course was still more hastened by another rumour 
— that of his growing intimacy with one of Catherine's beautiful 
ladies. 

On September 9, the first sitting of the Conference took 
place, in the great refectory of the Dominican Monastery of 
Poissy. So crowded was the room that even the Knights of 
the Order could not all get in. The Catholics had been 
arrogantly confident of their own victory because, as they 
thought, the ministers had few friends, but the number of 
Protestant nobles who accompanied the divines must have 
shaken this belief. The audience was chiefly of high rank. 
In the galleries round the hall were gathered much the same 
persons as some twelve months earlier had witnessed the 
executions at Amboise. The form of the favourite Court 
entertainment had changed and Protestantism was now the 
fashion. Here were Catherine, and the King, and his younger 
brother, Henri, the King and Queen of Navarre, the Due de 
Guise, and their followers. Six Cardinals and thirty-six 
Archbishops sat below. The eleven-year-old King began 
proceedings by making a long oration. Michel de I'Hopital 
followed him, and the bigoted Cardinal de Tournon, the leader 
of the orthodox party. ^ Then amid the scarlet and purple 
of the prelates there rose the black figure of de Beze. He 
held in his hand the Protestant Confession of Faith which, 
after stating its substance, he deposited, as agreed on, with 
the Council. His speech was long and, according to his own 
account, eloquent. He touched unopposed upon every point 
in question, till he came to the Eucharist. At the words — 
*' His Body is as far distant from the Bread and the Wine as 
the highest heaven is distant from the earth," the Cardinal 

1 Later she was obliged to yield, and the last sittings had no audience 
but the King, the Princes, herself and some of the Court. This was, 
however, towards the end of the Council. 

^ The Cardinal de Tournon's speech was printed in Paris, but so 
fearful was Catherine lest orthodox tenets should gain ground, that 
she sent a royal crier through the streets of Paris to prevent its further 
publication. 

171 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

de Tournon started up and said that if the Regent did not 
silence de Beze, he would leave the hall with all his train. 
Several people went out, dismayed by these heretical tenets. 
But Catherine did not stop him. She said afterwards that 
she would have done so if she had not feared a riot among the 
audience ; but the truth was that her sympathies were with 
him and she had no desire to check his speech. " But he, 
wishing to go on, completely lost the part he had studied," 
wrote a Roman Catholic contemporary, " and he began to 
look about him, in case he might catch sight of the Holy Spirit 
in the form of some person or another who would kindly jog 
his memory. This same Holy Spirit was, however, nowhere 
to be found, excepting in the Queen Mother — and not per- 
fectly even there, for she had not his part in her hand and 
was unable to prompt him with the words which followed 
those where he stumbled. All the same, she would not leave 
him in the lurch, but — trying to put courage into him — 
' Monsieur de Beze,' quoth she, ' pluck up heart and speak 
out boldly. What are you afraid of ? Do not get bewildered.' 
But, for all that, he could not pull himself together again . . . 
and apologized, saying that he feared he had offended the 
King. And the Queen . . . excusing him as well as she 
could, said that no one must blame him for this spiritual 
transport, since it was the result of shame, not of ignorance." 
De Beze himself makes no mention of his breaking down. 
" Messieurs," according to his version, he said when the 
clamour had subsided — "if you wait to hear my conclusion, 
you will be satisfied, — whereupon he returned to his oration 
and went on forthwith to the end." 

His discourse was followed by a cross-examination from 
the prelates, and his answers sum up the whole position of 
the Protestants. They believed, he said, in the Catholic, but 
not in the Roman Church ; their authority came from God, 
the evidence thereof was in their conscience. The Cardinal 
de Lorraine demanded what miracles they could show to give 
sanction to their religion. *' It is a great enough miracle that 
we, who a month ago were being burned and exiled, are now 
preaching at the Court and all over the country," was de 
Beze's reply, not calculated to soothe his opponents. The 
Cardinal de Tournon, still smarting from his defeat, again 
rose up in anger. " Messieurs," he began, " this Assembly 
will profit us little, or rather I may say not at all. For the 
men we are deaHng with here are beasts, obstinate in their 

172 



THE COUNCIL OF POISSY 

opinions. But they are cautious and they wish to keep 
themselves from pitfalls." The vexed question of the Sacra- 
ment continued, however, to be examined ; and before the 
four weeks' Conference was over, de Beze was feeble enough 
to sign a document, drawn up by his orthodox opponents, 
concerning the nature of the Real Presence. He doubtless 
read his own meaning into its wire-drawn, ambiguous phrases, 
but this act of religious compromise was a source of deep 
offence to the militant Prince de Conde and a precedent for 
further weakness to the King of Navarre, on whose wavering 
nature it had a visible effect. 

In other directions the New Opinions were spreading 
rapidty, and a wave of Protestantism passed over Court and 
aristocracy. Royalty set the tone, lesser people imitated it, 
and there followed something very like a fashionable religious 
revival. The great families relentlessly expelled their private 
chaplains and almoners, unless they consented to become 
Huguenots — till the Guises and their friends, it was said, 
were the only nobles who kept priests. There w^as, too, a 
growing demand for everything that came from Geneva 
The ministers had sent for a number of their tracts and 
pamphlets, as well as the Psalms of de Beze and Marot — 
" all the which were finely bound in red and black vellum, 
some among them richly gilded, and they gave them as presents 
to the Princes and Princesses, even to the King, while those 
volumes that were left were put up for sale at the Court." 
They were evidently bought at once, for we hear of " four 
more cartfuls of the aforesaid books " passing through the 
astonished town of Provins on their way to Saint-Germain. 

Meanwhile it was well known that Catherine often took 
the Httle King to hear de Beze preach and did her best to 
convert him to the New Opinions, though the Guises con- 
trived that she should fail. They did not succeed with her 
next son, Henri of Anjou, a boy of ten years old, who was 
heard to ask his mother in public why she did not give him 
Lutheran teachers. He had at that time strong tendencies 
towards Protestantism — " the religion (so he called it) of 
people with understandings." It was indeed this feehng — 
that the new faith represented the needs of the intellectual, 
and orthodox Cathohcism the superstition of the illiterate — 
which prevailed in poHte circles. The treatment that the 
young prince was permitted to administer to another infant 
controversiahst, his eight-year-old sister. Princess Margot, 

T73 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

shows the full length to which heresy had been allowed to 
run. She has described what happened in her own con- 
vincing words, and the account is too strange to bear curtail- 
ment. 

" Firm " (she wrote) " was the resistance that I made at 
the time of the Conference of Poissy in order to preserve my 
religion, when all the Court was infected with heresy and 
many lords and ladies there besieged me with imperious 
persuasion — more especially my brother of Anjou, who, from 
childhood upwards, had not been able to escape the impress 
of this miserable HugenoUerie. He was for ever preaching 
at me to make me change my creed, often throwing my prayer- 
book in the fire and giving me psalms and Huguenot books 
which he made me carry in my hand : the which, as soon as 
I had them, I gave to my governess, whom God in His grace 
had kept a Catholic. She often took me to that good man, 
Monsieur le Cardinal de Tournon, who strengthened me and 
counselled me to endure all things for the sake of my faith, 
and gave me back prayer-books and rosaries in the place of 
those that had been burnt by my brother of Anjou. And 
this Prince's familiar friends . . . finding them once more 
in my possession, abused me, saying that ... it was evident 
that I had no intellect ; that all people with a mind, whatever 
their age and sex, once having heard Christian charity 
preached, had renounced all the abuses of this bigotry. . . . 
And my brother of Anjou, adding threats to their talk, said 
that my Queen-Mother would have me whipped. ... I 
answered his menace by bursting into tears (for as I was only 
seven or eight, my years were still tender) and by saying that 
he might have me whipped or killed if he wished, and that I 
would suffer the worst that could be done to me rather than 
damn my soul." 

Protestantism held its head so high that it might have 
been accused at this moment of offending through carnal 
pride. The Cardinal de Lorraine was dismayed. He was 
not usually the man to show his hand, but these Huguenot 
triumphs which he seemed impotent to check almost made 
him lose his self-control. 

" And you, Madam," he perorated at one of the sittings 
of the Council, " since this realm has delegated to you its 
government during the minority of the King . . . pray 
preserve this precious hostage for us, and give him back to us 
at his majority strong in the^faith that he possessed when 

174 



THE COUNCIL OF POISSY 

we gave him into your hands ! ... In the name of the good 
King Henri, your husband ... we beg you to follow his 
sainted wishes that his memory be not condemned, nor that 
of the mighty King Frangois, your father-in-law, who called 
you to enjoy such a great and happy marriage ivith his son.'''' ^ 

The last words are almost a threat — an insolent reminder 
that Catherine's position was not hers by right and might 
easily be taken away from her. Nor was Chantonnay behind- 
hand. He had once more sought her out and brought her 
to book about her conduct. She must provide him, he said, 
with some " hons mots " in which to explain matters to his 
master. She only answered that " things were much im- 
proved, that she had more hope than ever that in time all 
would come right " — on which the envoy's face lowered. " A 
change of religion" — he said darkly — " often brings a change 
of Kings." 

The first weeks of the Conference were now over, and in 
spite of her boasted confidence, Catherine was no longer 
sanguine. The cause of reconcihation had not been furthered 
and no real knowledge had been gained. Debate had sunk 
into the merest hairsplitting about immaterial points, and 
the verbose puerility, the gross irreverence of those inter- 
minable discussions must ever amaze the mind of the bold 
student who looks into them. The next step seemed a matter 
of difficulty. The Catholics, it is true, boasted of victory, 
but they knew that it was only a victory of words and that 
their position was insecure. The Cardinal de Lorraine tried 
every means that strategy suggested. He sent in secret to 
Augsburg for four Lutheran Doctors, in the hope that they 
might quarrel with the Calvinists and so put an end to the 
Conference. He decreed that the quarrel about the Eucharist 
should finally be referred to the Fathers of the first five cen- 
turies after Christ ; but when the conscientious ministers duly 
came with their arms full of tomes, they found the hostile 
ecclesiastics without a book to turn to, unwiUing to discuss 
and obdurate as ever. It is hardly surprising that no con- 
clusions were arrived at. "We are sorely grieved that this 
meeting hath not produced that fruit we should have wished, 
so needful for the love of the whole Christian Church," said 
Catherine towards the end of the Council ; but was she aware 
that the chief cause of the failure lay in herself, in her double- 
dealings with the Guises and the Bourbons, her manoeuvres 
^ The italics are those of the present writer. 
175 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

for the Regency, her plots to entrap Conde and Navarre ? 
The Assembly had no real moral support from her, no help! 
from a strong principle, as it would have had from Jeannei 
de Navarre ; and wanting, as it were, a central point round 
which to work, it lost cohesion and came to nought. " She 
is a Florentine " — ^wrote one Languet, a leading Huguenot — 
" What shall I say of her ? I really don't know. But of 
one thing I am certain : to whatever side fortune veers, the 
Regent's chief care is to rule, and neither the Papists nor the 
Reformers will make her gamble away her destiny." 

Yet she continued to venture much to help the Reformers. 
L'Hopital was still her adviser, and the important posts were 
given to men with leanings towards Protestantism, such as 
the son of the Connetable, the Marechal de Montmorency, who 
was appointed as Governor of Paris. The Catholics, who had 
been exulting at the apparent defeat of their opponents, soon 
had their spirits dashed ; for fresh decrees promoting religious 
liberty were " cried " to the sound of a trumpet through the 
streets by the King's command. Great was the wrath of 
the Due de Guise. Catherine's estrangement grew so marked 
that he could no longer endure it, and he, together with his 
brother, the Due d'Aumale, the Due de Montpensier, the Due 
de Nemours and the Marechal de Saint-Andre, acted upon 
their offended dignity and took their departure from the 
Court. 

Their last hope had been in the Papal Legate who, after 
many delays, arrived in state at Saint-Germain. This was 
Hippolyte d'Este, Cardinal of Ferrara, uncle to the Duchesse 
de Guise — a distinguished diplomat, from whose adroit 
manipulation much had been expected. But the foible of 
ecclesiastical politicians once more deceived them here. 
Stronger qualities than tact were needed at this juncture, and 
the Legate produced no real effect. The most definite thing 
that he achieved was perhaps hardly to his credit, for it was 
said that he completed the conversion of Antoine de Navarre. 

Ill 

The arrival of Jeanne d'Albret at Saint-Germain ushered 
in the saddest hours of her life. Her husband she found to 
be the centre of a great Catholic plot, in which PhiHp of Spain 
had Joined the Guises, and Catherine played a double part. 
His brother, the Prince de Conde, was also the victim of base 
scheming, but though he had fallen a prey to the charms of 

176 




THE COUNCIL OF POISSY 

Isabelle de Limeuil, she never succeeded in accomplishing the 
real object of his opponents. For charmed she never so 
wisely, the Prince was true to his beHef and, whatever his 
foibles, had no latent weakness for the Church of Rome. But 
the Guises, knowing their man, held out more dazzling dreams 
to I'Echangeur than the mere attractions of a Court beauty. 
His relations with Mademoiselle de la Limaudiere — La belle 
Rouet, as she was called — formed only the first stage of their 
plan for his future. She was but a decoy, a means of dividing 
him from his wife, of preparing his mind for divorcing Jeanne 
(a righteous divorce from a heretic) and finally for a second 
marriage. This match, they led the siren to beheve, would 
be with herself, which was a sufficient lure for her ambition. 
But their real intention was to unite Antoine with their 
widowed niece, Mary Stuart, and thus make him their own. 
Once removed from the Queen of Navarre, Antoine would 
run no danger of returning to Protestantism ; the less so, as 
Philip was bribing him with that long-coveted prize, the 
possession of Spanish Navarre. 

Throughout these machinations Catherine acted a trea- 
cherous part. Ever keeping the establishment of her 
Regency in view, she was anxious to please the Guises when 
she could, to blind them to her plottings against them, to 
prevent them from fighting with, perhaps from overcoming, 
the Bourbons, whose support was so needful for her rule. 
And she nourished a secret hope that if the Guises succeeded 
all would turn to her profit, that Guises and Bourbons would 
coalesce in her support, that Spain would forgive her mis- 
doings, and the pacification she prayed for would at last be 
ensured. So she let loose the " Flying Squadron " of charmers 
— her secret-intelligence officers — and allowed them to do the 
bidding of the Guises. La belle Rouet had no difficulty ; she 
quickly gained an entire hold over Antoine' s susceptible mind. 

The Queen of Navarre, meanwhile, was being duped on all 
sides. Catherine, renewing an old arrangement, promised 
her the Princess Margot as a bride for her son, young Henri, 
at the same time that she was corresponding both with Spain 
and Portugal about other matches. And she covered Jeanne 
with caresses when the plot against her was at its thickest. 
" I wish God had taken the Queen of Navarre, so that her 
husband might marry again without delay," thus she wrote 
while Antoine' s fate was still undecided. 

The arrival of the Papal Legate meant fresh developments 

177 N 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

of the plot. He was to attach Antoine yet more closely to 
the Church, and if possible to convert Jeanne ; but in the 
probable event of his failing to do so, she was to be divorced 
and dethroned, and finally impeached by him as a heretic 
before the Court of the Inquisition. Hippolyte d'Este had 
travelled to France in the company of Lainez, then the General 
of the Jesuits, and the journey had not been in vain. The 
wiliest of that Order could not have paid more delicate atten- 
tions to Jeanne, and during his frequent visits and encounters 
with de Beze in her rooms, he never relaxed his self-control, 
or made any comment on what he heard. He went farther 
and made a playful bargain with her — that if she would attend 
a Mass at which the Nuncio was to preach, he, the Cardinal, 
would come with her and sit through one of de Beze's sermons. 
Great was the surprise at Court when he fulfilled his pact and 
remained through a long '* Preche " which took place in 
Conde's apartments. But he might have spared himself his 
effort, for Jeanne stood as firm as a rock and he turned 
his attention to Antoine. Having won over that Prince's 
perfidious chamberlain, it was easy for the Legate to sur- 
round his dupe with spies, chief among them a Sicilian, Lauro, 
who became Navarre's physician-in-ordinary. Every secret 
of his existence was thus made known to the Guises, and their 
grip of him daily grew stronger. Antoine now listened to 
their proposals, and d'Este promised in the Pope's name to 
arrange his marriage with Mary Stuart if he would definitely 
renounce the Calvinists. They gave him a hint that Philip 
would rather he were Regent than Catherine and would not 
be averse to deposing her. Antoine's reply showed the depth 
to which he had fallen. " Supposing he consented," he asked, 
" how could French Navarre be certainly secured to him, 
considering that he only reigned there by virtue of his mar- 
riage with Jeanne ? " The Vatican, he was told, would see 
to that, and would, besides annulling his marriage, depose 
his wife as a heretic and give her kindgom to him. Antoine, 
much agitated at what he heard, demanded a few days for 
reflection, and these were granted him on condition that he 
kept strict secrecy. 

Thus Jeanne became in his eyes the only obstacle to happi- 
ness and the last spark of feeling died out in him. He grew 
cruelly cold, sought quarrels with her for her heresies, and 
threatened, if she continued in them, to take away her child- 
ren. Nor did he stop here. For he tried to force her to 

178 



THE COUNCIL OF POISSY 



^o to Mass and once when their little Henri, then a boy 
of ten, " flew to his mother's side with a — ' Nothing will 
induce me, either, to go to Mass ! ' " — his father soundly 
boxed his ears and ordered his tutor to thrash him. Jeanne, 
remembering her early defence of her mother and the beating 
that she got for it, must have felt that history repeats itself. 
Another day, finding her " about to step into her litter and 
attend a Preche, he took her by the hand and led her back," 
with a stern command " that she should no more attend 
the Calvinistic services, but outwardly conform in all things 
to the worship of the Roman Church." Jeanne knew that 
transactions had been held concerning Spanish Navarre. 
" I would not barter my immortal soul either for land or 
honours ! " she cried, " nor will I ever be present at the 
Mass, or at any Papist ceremony." Antoine took a mean form 
of vengeance. He revealed the conspiracy against her and 
swore he would divorce her unless she did as he said. " In- 
dignation sealed the Queen's lips for some minutes, then 
tears fell from her eyes. She warned him that the plot 
meant his own degradation and the elevation of his here- 
ditary enemies." " My lord," she eloquently concluded, 
" although my fate does not move you, have pity on our 
two children. Your repudiation of their mother will destroy 
her, but it will be their ruin also." Her impressionable 
husband seemed affected. " If this be the case," he an- 
swered — " you had best make the step unnecessary by your 
prompt obedience and by making your peace with Rome 
and Spain." As for himself, he added, " he was still un- 
decided which religion was the true one, but while his un- 
certainty lasted he was minded to follow the faith of his 
fathers." " Well, then," retorted his wife, who had not 
lost her power of irony, *' if your doubts on either side are 
equal, I beseech you to choose the one which is likely to do 
you least prejudice." 

Chantonnay, who must have spent his days behind key- 
holes, instantly reported this scene to headquarters. " Madame 
Jeanne " (he wrote) " has been compelled by her husband 
to forego her Preches ; sermons are no longer allowed in her 
apartments at Saint-Germain — a general cause of grief and 
lamentation." The poor Queen's private chaplain went away 
in^ anger and she saw herself deserted and friendless : worse 
than this, insulted by La belle Rouet, who allowed her coarse 
tongue free rein in Jeanne's presence. With great dignity 

179 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

she dwelt on her right to go home to Beam with her children. 
Later, however, she changed her mind and stayed on, with 
what motive it is hard to fathom, unless, as one of her bio- 
graphers suggests, she saw some last chance of saving Antoine. 
Her delay gave another chance to the Cardinal d'Este, who, 
sanguine priest that he was^ had still not lost his hope of con- 
verting her and never ceased to ply her with dazzling promises 
of what would happen when she turned Catholic. He was 
meantime " doing all in his power to widen the breach " 
between the pair. " The King of Navarre," he said, " to 
show me how well-disposed he was towards religion, told me 
a few days ago that he meant to send the Queen, his wife, 
home to Beam, on the plea that affairs required her presence 
there. . . . But since then things have changed their aspect 
and she is not going yet, whether on account of this severe 
weather, or because of her failing health I cannot tell. The 
King, nevertheless, is resolved to send her back in the early 
spring. For my part, I shall not fail ... to work my utmost 
for the accomplishment of these designs." 

Perhaps he counted too much on Antoine's weakness. 
That Prince had one fixed idea — the acquisition of Spanish 
Navarre. When he tried to persuade Spain to promise that 
the province would be his, he was told that " His Majesty 
might find opposition in his Cabinet which it would take 
time to overcome, but that anyhow King Philip would gratify 
him with Sardinia and declare that island to be a Kingdom." 
Chantonnay enforced the offer. If the King, said the Envoy, 
should, all things considered, now wish to keep Jeanne as 
his wife, the wonderful island of Sardinia should still be his. 
Sardinia was in point of fact a barren and unprofitable place ; 
but these casuists had no scruple in assuring him that he would 
possess a paradise ; their zeal led them to invent a map in 
which fertile districts and splendid cities, all equally imaginary, 
were shown him. Antoine, as was his way, resolved to think 
the matter over and, while he was so doing, gave in more and 
more to his seducers. 

The Catholic party, gaining confidence, had for some time been! 
strengthened by a league, " a formidable coalition between the 
Due de Guise, the Connetable de Montmorency and the Marechal 
de Saint-Andre, to maintain the ascendancy of the Romish 
faith throughout the realm." "The King of Navarre" — 
wrote Jeanne to her friend, the Vicomte de Gourdon — "has 
grown so deluded and enervated, mentally and bodily, by| 

i8o \ 



THE COUNCIL OF POISSY 

indolence and luxury, that he has allowed the Guises, aided by * 
the Constable, to regain the upper hand, to his great shame 
and the calamity of France. ... He has become stultified 
by the trickery of Rome and by the false words that it sent 
us through the Queen-Mother, promising to restore our king- 
dom which Spain so iniquitously took from us : so stultified, 
too, by his fear of losing what remains to us, that he will 
neither say nor do anything, nor yet permit me to act. Amidst 
all this woe my soul, sad and perplexed, yearns to be coun- 
selled and consoled by a loyal friend. Come to me here, or 
write what you think I ought to do." 

" Your Majesty should not undertake anything in the 
matter of religion which goes against the will of your hus- 
band." This was all the answer she got to her forlorn appeal 
for comfort. Her truth-loving spirit found no one to 
trust or to turn to ; it was stifled in the air of Saint-Germain 
and she resolved to leave the Court behind her. This time 
Antoine made no objection and allowed his wife to depart 
with their little girl, Catherine, to Paris. Here, in the great 
Hotel of the Rue de Grenelle, where she settled, she was joined 
by the Prince de Conde who, deeply offended at his brother's 
behaviour, remained loyal to his sister-in-law. Here at least 
there was liberty. " The palace of the Queen of Navarre is 
a school for the study of the new doctrines," writes an envoy 
from Venice at this moment of respite for her and Conde. 

Their repose was soon disturbed by a fresh insult to their 
creed. The King of Navarre formally joined the Catholic i 
Triumvirate, and on Palm Sunday, 1562, he, together with ; 
the Guises, walked in solemn procession from the Constable's 
house through Paris and attended Mass in public at the Church ^ 
of Ste Genevieve. The Constable accompanied them, riding 
upon a mule, an indulgence which was allowed him " by 
reason of his age and of his gout." The Duchesse de Valenti- 
nois wrote from out her retirement to encourage the Catholic 
party and exhort them to keep together — her last noteworthy 
action on the stage which once knew her so well. Antoine 
was now publicly pledged to orthodoxy, and nearly broke 
Jeanne's heart by confiding their son to the care of Lauro, the 
Jesuit. 

Before we trace her fortunes any further, we must, however, \ 
go back to Poissy and follow the fate of the Council. \ ■/ 

It had lasted only six weeks, from September 9 to October 
20, 1561, and it ended, as Catherine foresaw, in little more 

181 i 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

than smoke. Towards the close of the year the Huguenots 
rose in the provinces and fierce riots ensued. They seized on 
a great many churches and indulged in deeds of violence 
which their enemies repaid in kind. The members of the 
Conference had by this time dispersed, the ministers taken 
their departure, but Catherine called another Assembly at 
Saint-Germain in the hngering hope that a final effort 
might discover some means of reconciliation. There 
was a large mustering of Councillors and Deputes from the 
provinces. L'Hopital began proceedings with one of his fine 
pleas for tolerance. He was followed by Catherine herself, 
who spoke with unexpected eloquence in the same spirit as 
the Chancellor. The speech had a signal success. Even the 
Papal Nuncio was forced to confess that " he had never heard 
an orator express himself with greater art or energy." And 
the Regent said she herself felt that God was dictating the 
words to her. If she possessed this gift, one wonders why she 
did not use it oftener ; but it seems more probable that the 
occasion was an exception and that her brilliance was due to 
the inspiration of the moment. The result, at least in great 
measure, was the important " Edict of January," which came 
as near a modus vivendi as anything the Council could contrive. 
On the one hand, it forbade Protestants to build churches of 
their own, or to use those of the Catholics ; on the other, it 
allowed them to assemble for public worship in certain dis- 
tricts outside towns. The Edict was sent in due course to 
the Parlement, but the Parlement refused to register it. In 
vain did the students of the University, of whom the majority 
were heretical, march armed, two and two, first to Preches 
and afterwards on to the Assembly, to force it at the point of 
the sword to publish the decree. The Deputes refused. 

Catherine's anger knew no bounds : " The which lady in her 
wrath and rage took horse at Saint Germain-en-Laye and rode 
post-haste to Paris. And in sooth it was hard work to keep 
her from galloping straight into the Council in the Golden 
Chamber, that she might the better demonstrate her absolute 
will and see the Edict safely registered. By no means cooled 
from her anger, she entered the room where sat the Presidents 
and all the Councillors, and began to plead and to grow shrill 
with them, as women do when they are irritated. . . . And 
when they had patiently listened, they tried to remonstrate 
with her and to prove the evil that the Edict would do to King 
and kingdom, to the dishonour of God : . . . wherefore, they 

l82 



THE COUNCIL OF POISSY 

said, they could not receive or register it. All of which the 
aforesaid lady refused to hear and, persevering in her threats, 
she formally ordered them to accept it. . . . Seeing which 
the Chief President rose to go, and, as he left the Hall, he spake 
these words : ' Madam, you and your children will be the 
first to repent this ; you are taking the road that will lose you 
crown and kingdom if nobody minds your business for you.' 
Saying which he went out of the room and returned sorely 
vexed to his house. Others of the Presidents and Councillors 
did the same, and there only remained with the lady the 
Councillors whom she had cowed, and those who rejoiced at 
the Edict and smelt the Huguenot rat. These she com- 
manded to register and pubUsh the decree . . . the which 
they promised to do, and afterwards she went back to the 
Court to tell her friend, the Prince de Cond6 what she had 
done for love of him. Messieurs of the Court of Parlement 
having reassembled on the morrow . . . saw to the registra- 
tion of the said Edict, to which they added the words that 
follow : * Published, read and registered in our Court of Parle- 
ment at Paris, by reason of the importunity of those who 
profess the so-called new Reformed religion — and this only 
provisionally, while awaiting the majority of the King.' " 

After this surprising episode, the Deputes dispersed and 
though Catherine, wishing to define matters further, summoned 
another Conference, she got no more satisfactory returns. 
" They have spent about a fortnight in quarreUing over the 
simplest thing," she said ; " they were fighting not to he con- 
quered instead of talking together with a real wish to submit 
themselves to truth and reason." 

But broad-minded discussion was not to the taste of the 
Most CathoHc King, and his anger, which Catherine had so 
long parried, had taken a serious turn. An agent whom 
Antoine had sent to Spain returned with a message to the 
Regent that unless she would change her ways. His Majesty 
would certainly make war upon her. This alarming threat, 
which put her power in serious jeopardy, filled her mind with 
fears. She threw herself more and more into Antoine de 
Bourbon's conversion in the hope of impressing Spain favour- 
ably. There was a moment when Jeanne, perhaps in sarcasm, 
asked her " on her conscience " to advise how she should act 
towards Antoine. *' Conform outwardly to Rome if you wish 
to keep your husband and Beam," was the Regent's counsel 
of expediency. " Madam," exclaimed Jeanne, " if I held my 

183 



CATHERINE DE» MEDICI 

son and all the kingdoms of the world in my hand, I would 
hurl them to the bottom of the sea rather than imperil my 
soul." Catherine probably gave a light laugh — the laugh 
which exasperated Jeanne — at so much display of zeal, but 
she herself, with the dread of Spain before her eyes, turned 
even more emphatically to the " outward conformity " she 
commended. And yet, in spite of her efforts, Chantonnay 
did not believe her. His impression was that she still " sus- 
pected everything that came from Spain and trusted Coligny 
and his party." Nevertheless, her apparent acquiescence in 
orthodoxy made the Spanish envoy's schemes practicable. 
With the energetic help of the pervert Antoine, now nominal 
head of the Catholic League, he, the Legate and the Nuncio, 
succeeded in driving the great Protestants from Court. Coligny, 
Conde, d'Andelot, and the Cardinal de Chatillon, together 
with the Prince de Poitien and the Due de la Rochefoucauld, 
withdrew to Orleans and to Meaux — practically forced into 
exile, though Catherine took the trouble to announce that 
they " departed of their own free will." 

^ The Regent's position was an ugly one. She suspected not 
only Spain, as Chantonnay had said, but all her allies. Nor 

/ was she far wrong in doing so. Bent upon hearing the secret 
debates of the League (now falsely called the Triumvirate, 
since Navarre made a fourth in it), Catherine had a tube con- 
structed and placed without anybody's knowledge between the 
wall of the Council-room and the arras hangings that hung 
round it, an arrangement which enabled her to overhear every- 
thing from her room above. The first words that met her ear 
were not encouraging — a proposal, disloyal to herself, made by 
the Due de Guise. He was followed by the Marechal de Saint- 
Andre, her constant guest and now her ally at the Court. 
What were her feelings when she clearly heard him suggest 
that the League should rid themselves of her by drowning her 
in the Seine ! It could be accompHshed, he averred, without 
the slightest risk of discovery. It is to Navarre's credit that 
he sprang to his feet and refused to have a hand in such a job, 
nor was it likely that Saint-Andre himself seriously believed 
in his scheme. But the mere notion that such a thing was 
possible filled the Regent with panic, and she lost no time in 
inventing a pretext for retiring with the King to Fontaine- 
bleau. 

Jeanne d'Albret, left alone in Paris, fared worse at the hands 
of this remorseless Junto. Their design was to arrest her as a 

184 



THE COUNCIL OF POISSY 

State prisoner and shut her in some fortress-dungeon, a plan 
to which her miserable husband, less loyal to his wife than to 
his Queen, gave a full, even gay consent. " Voild, Monseigneur 
un ade digne de vous ! Dieu vous donne bonne vie et longue ! " ex- 
claimed the Cardinal de Lorraine, shaking him warmly by the 
hand. And doubtless Antoine, also, had made the act seem 
possible to himself by looking upon it as a sacrifice in the 
cause of the true religion. The warrant for her arrest was at 
once put in hand, but the choice of a leader for the enterprise 
caused some delay and, in the interval, the affair was revealed 
to Jeanne. She showed no emotion when she heard of 
Antoine's final treachery : " But from that moment," she 
wrote in after years, " I closed my heart for ever against the 
affection which I confess I still cherish for my husband, and I 
devoted all the energy of love to the strict fulfilment of my 
duty." Such sorrow as she felt she had to stifle, for this was 
not the moment for sentiment. With prompt decision she 
resolved to set out for Beam and made her preparations 
accordingly. Jeanne, who never wept, shed bitter tears when 
she took leave of her boy, whom she saw herself compelled to 
leave in the hands of his Jesuit tutor. Tenderly she clasped 
the sobbing child in her arms and tried her best to console him. 
Then returning with an effort to her strenuous mood, she took 
him by the hand and bade him keep firm in his faith ; if ever 
he attended Mass, she said, she would disown and disinherit 
him. And with this stern farewell she tore herself away. The 
next day came her parting with her husband — their last part- 
ing, though neither of them knew it. With her wonted 
fervour, she entreated him to give up the Guises, to return to 
her side and to safety. But he answered her with ambiguities, 
and they separated — for ever. 

The Huguenots of Paris, having meanwhile got wind of her 
danger, gathered in a crowd round her Hotel with turbulent 
demonstrations of loyalty. It became evident that to arrest 
her in Paris would be dangerous, and the Catholics determined 
to wait till she reached the town of Vendome, through which 
she had to pass — Antoine himself instructing the local authori- 
ties that they were not to let her leave their city. She and her 
Httle girl set out in April, 1562, escorted by a band of horse. 
But when she reached Vendome Jeanne might well have said 
that Providence protected the Huguenots. A throng of law- 
less mercenaries marauding the country-side made a sudden 
raid upon Vendome, and billeting themselves upon the town, so 

185 



\ 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

filled the thoughts of the civic powers that Jeanne was left in 
peace. She continued her journey as far as Caumont, where 
she had a Huguenot ally, but hardly had she reached its castle 
when secret intelligence was brought her that Monluc, the 
Catholic Captain, was pursuing her hard at the head of a con- 
siderable army and intended to surprise her in her stronghold. 
She had just time to fly. Happily she had foreseen that perils 
would beset her on every hand and had sent a messenger to 
Beam demanding a military escort. A force of 800 cavalry 
under her staunch friend, the Baron d'Adrets, met her as she 
fled towards the frontier, and " the last of Monluc's trumpets 
was distinctly audible in Caumont as Jeanne's troops closed 
round her." She crossed the boundary-line and found herself 
safe in her kingdom, whence she could sight Monluc's banner 
floating from the tower that she had left. She had not been a 
moment too soon and Monluc was left to fume at leisure. 
" Heaven knows," he wrote in later days, " the grudge that 
the Queen of Navarre bore me and how she reviled me after- 
wards . . . but she was a woman and so she could enjoy her 
immunity from personal combat." He evidently did not 
know Jeanne, who would greatly have enjoyed a duel. But 
the whole incident had more than a passing significance. It 
was one of the first strokes in the terrible religious war that 
was now to convulse the nation. 



186 



CHAPTER IX 

The Huguenots 



187 



AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 

Journal de Claude Haton. 

Memoirs du Due de Guise. 

Memoirs de Tavannes. 

Memoirs de Jean Philippi. 

Memoirs du Prince de Conde. 

Memoirs de Henri II — Archives Curieuses. 

Journal de Tan 1562 — Revue Retrospective. 

Histoire de France — Martin. 

Relations de la Diplomatic Venitienne — Baschet. 



188 



CHAPTER IX 

The Huguenots 

EARLY in 1562, there occurred the awful massacre of the 
Huguenots at Vassy, a little town in Champagne, not 
far from Joinville, the great family seat of the Guises. Vassy 
had rapidly become a centre of heresy. For a Protestant 
Church had been established there soon after the Council of 
Poissy, the congregation increasing in three months from 120 
to 1,200. The Guises had already made two futile attempts 
to scatter this earnest congregation, but the Bishop of the 
diocese himself (the mundane Bishop of Chalons) was foiled 
in his encounter with the minister and obhged to retire dis- 
comfited. The Guises promised themselves vengeance. They 
intended, it was said, to execute their plan at Christmas, when 
near a thousand communicants were to take the Lord's Supper. 
A solemn warning was sent them, but they bravely continued 
in their course, and the Guises, busy elsewhere for the moment, 
did not fulfil their designs. None the less did they nourish 
them, and when, in the spring, the Duke returned from the 
German frontier, the first question he put was whether the 
Huguenots of Vassy " faisaicnt toujours Preches.'' His mother, 
Antoinette de Bourbon, the grim dowager of orthodoxy, told 
him that they grew worse every day. " On the which he 
straight began to mutter and to wax hot in his courage, biting 
his beard, as was his custom when he felt greatly irritated." 
Whoever knows Francois Clouet's virile miniature of the Duke, 
an epigram of brute force and superb courage, will be able to 
see him as he stood there biting that terrible beard of his, so 
prominent in the picture that it seems the very seat of revenge- 
ful power. His schemes were soon matured. Together with 
his brother, the Cardinal de Guise,^ he set out one Sunday with 
an armed escort (no unwonted appanage of his state), intending, 
so he gave forth, to dine at a village which lay just beyond 

^ Not to be confused with his greater brother, the Cardinal de 
Lorraine. 

189 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Vassy. The bells of that devout place were calling the Hugue- 
nots to worship, and the Duke did not fail to ask why they 
were ringing so loud. Suddenly diverting his course, he turned 
oif the road to his destination and, taking the turning to Vassy, 
he rode to the empty parish church, the Preches being held, 
as he discovered, in a rough barn a hundred yards off. Thither 
he despatched a messenger, who ordered the minister to stop 
the service, as the Duke wished Mass to be celebrated in the 
church hard by. The minister replied that " the Duke was 
only a man — that he could not overrule the Word of God to 
hear the which they had met . . . nor should they dream of 
leaving off." This was enough. A shot through the open door 
was Guise's only retort, and when the defenceless congregation 
tried to shut their enemies out, the troops rushed in pell-mell 
and slaughtered to the right and to the left. That the whole 
affair was premeditated there can be no sort of doubt, for the 
soldiers whom Guise brought with him were reinforced by 
others whom he had lodged in the neighbourhood. The 
cruelties are piteous to read of, sickening to recall. The 
minister went on preaching till the pulpit was brought down 
under him and he himself, covered with wounds, was taken 
prisoner. Men, women, children, were massacred wholesale 
to the sound of the Duke's trumpets, while he stood in the 
barn, sword in hand, urging his soldiers to kill. His wife, who 
had followed this strange expedition in her litter — the same 
poor lady who had wept at the horrors of Amboise — prevailed 
on him to spare a few women ; some of the more fortunate 
Huguenots escaped by the roof, but otherwise the murder was 
wholesale. 

" Seigneur Dieu ! " cried the hapless victims ; '* Seigneur 
Diahle!'' retorted their foes. The Cardinal, meanwhile, re- 
mained outside, leaning on the churchyard wall and watching 
his men as they pursued their relentless work. " Presently the 
Duke went into the bam and found a Bible there. ' Look 
here, brother,' said he, ' look at the title of this Huguenot 
book.' Quoth the Cardinal when he saw it, ' There is no 
harm there : these are the Holy Scriptures.' At the which 
the Duke feehng himself confounded, fell into a greater rage 
than heretofore : ' Sblood ! and what do you mean ? ' quoth 
he, ' when you say the Holy Scriptures ? Fifteen hundred 
years have passed since the Passion and the death of Jesus 
Christ, and this book was only published a year ago. . How 
can you call this the Gospel ? ' . . . His excessive fury dis- 

190 



THE HUGUENOTS 

pleased the Cardinal. * My brother is wrong,' he was heard to 
say — but the Duke paced up and down the barn, foaming with 
anger and pulling his beard as he walked." The Duke Fran- 
cois' ignorance was no less amazing than his cruelty. It is 
hard to beheve in a person who destroyed others for studying 
a book he had never seen, and yet this momentary flash of 
portraiture which reveals his primitiveness of intellect shows 
us the man more surely than any detailed history of his doings. 
He did not know what remorse meant. "For hereupon," 
says his chronicler, " he mounted his horse and departed from 
that town of Vassy with his brother the Cardinal, the Duchess 
his wife, and two or three of their closest comrades — and they 
went to dine at Ettancourt at the house of one, Jean CoUesson." 

Huguenot revolts quickly followed on this disaster at Vassy, 
and Montargis, Guienne, Meaux and Montpellier witnessed 
great carnage on either side. But although it was the Catholics 
who, at Vassy, first gave provocation, this was far from being 
always the case. There is nothing more delusive than to 
imagine that the persecutors were all diabolical, the persecuted 
angels of light ; and though drama, fiction and tradition have 
combined to glorify the Huguenots, to give them no blame 
but for austerity, the truth is that they were, for the most part, 
a rude and tactless society, irreverent and coarse of tongue, 
uncultured and undisciplined, trampling on tradition, con- 
stantly offending the taste of the high-bred Catholics, and 
taking the line of aggression quite as often as their adversaries. 

A movement, we must repeat, consists both of those who 
lead and those who are led, and in the case of the French 
Reformation the line of demarcation was sharper than it need 
be. For the leaders were aristocrats, and they, as we have 
seen, were spirits touched to fine issues. The Protestant 
ministers, too, the spiritual captains of the band, were heroes 
in thought and deed ; but beneath them came the majority, 
the unthinking, energetic mob, dependent on the presence of 
their chiefs, swayed by every impulse in their absence. If we 
can picture the impression that violent rehgious revivalists 
would make upon a student or an aesthete, we may get some 
nearer conception of the effect produced by this new sect upon 
the old noblesse of France. The deeds perpetrated by the 
Huguenots were often as offensive as those of their oppressors. 
" Now it was very easy for people to be Huguenots in those 
days, for all that was needful was to murder, to rob churches, 
to slander the Pope, to give the Host as provender to dogs and 

191 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

cattle, to grease boots and shoes with the Holy Oil.'* 
They thought nothing of dragging the image of the Virgin 
tied to a string through the mud, and one of their favourite 
pastimes was to mock the Host — " Jehan le Blanc '^ as they 
called it — when the priest bore it through the streets. Not 
unfrequently they committed worse sacrilege. A certain man 
rode one day into church on a horse " which was all accoutred 
in bright armour," and galloped up to the High Altar, shouting 
" Rob ! come let us rob everything." Sometimes they forced 
their way into the churches and, driving out the congregation, 
began services of their own ; and it was their constant habit 
to hold Preches just outside the church-door, so that the noise 
of their psalm-singing might disturb the celebration of the 
Mass. They were wont to go to these ceremonies with loaded 
pistols in their hands, and they returned through the streets 
singing loudly the psalms of de Beze or Marot ; while if it were 
a Friday or a fast-day, they took good care to be seen eating 
meat in the public places. This was as they grew bolder. In 
the early days they met in secret by night, and only twice a 
month, at different houses of the community. One of the most 
important — the property of the University of Paris — was in 
the Rue St. Jacques, and the long grey street with its high- 
built, sober houses still recalls those Puritan figures walking 
swiftly to their " supper-parties," as they cautiously called 
these meetings. The Preches they held on these occasions 
were simple enough, and though they varied slightly in detail, 
their main form was the same. They sang, or sometimes read, 
the Commandments ; they prayed to the Holy Spirit ; they 
had two Lessons, one of them from Exodus or Deuteronomy, 
and three times during the service the psalms of Marot were 
sung, " en chant de musique lotirde et pesante . . . four enwu- 
voir les cceurs d^entre eux.^^ " After which," an old chronicler 
tells us, " the men and women, who till then had sat apart, 
were permitted to approach one another and to hold inter- 
course together as they wished, and after they had fondly 
saluted one another, the minister, or the preacher who took his 
place, declared aloud the charity that they owed to one another, 
reminding them likewise that all their possessions were in com- 
mon, so that the faith might be upheld. Then, blowing out the 
candles in front of him, he spake these words : * In the name 
of God, fulfil all brotherly charity, and may each one among 
you delight in the love of each.' " Mani^ were the great ladies, 
some of them tied to Catholic lords, who " giving the slip to 

192 



THE HUGUENOTS 

their husbands (the which took no note of what they did)," 
stole out to these mystic suppers and " took with them their 
maids or their daughters to prevent any suspicion." The 
Huguenots belonged to their times, and perhaps we can hardly 
be surprised that these ceremonies were abused and resulted 
in a good deal of scandal. Huguenot men forbade their 
womenkind to go to them and the midnight services got a 
bad name. Such evils arose from no special creed. The 
Renaissance invented Neo-Platonism, the Reformation its 
own forms of mysticism, and both satisfied a need and were 
alike capable of corruption. 

The leading Huguenots did their best to remedy all these 
evils and to modify at least the manners of their more plebeian 
brethren. Renee of Ferrara, more especially, made great 
efforts at pacification, and attempted to turn the Preches at 
Montargis into a private rite. But even she did not scruple 
to lay hands on the Catholic churchyard and enclose it in her 
private grounds, an action which led to a grievous riot in the 
city. For the orthodox party, taking fire, drove her workmen 
with stones from their task and the consequence was a pitched 
battle, with a sad waste of life for either faction. 

However objectionable the new Dissenters were, one thing 
must always be remembered — that if they had been left alone 
they would have given no offence. The Catholics were the 
persecutors, the Huguenots the persecuted. Their faihngs and 
their virtues were ahke created by their circumstances, and 
it is with the Catholics that the guilt from first to last must rest. 
" Arquebuses," said a contemporary, " were the church- 
bells of the Protestants," and it was their enemies who rang 
them. The brutality of these enemies was unrelenting. With 
every wish not to be sensational, the chronicler can hardly 
exaggerate the enormity of their deeds. The sHghtest pretext 
sufiiced to provoke them and a spark at once became a bonfire. 
A lady of rank who was travelling towards Nogent did not stop 
her Utter at a roadside shrine to the Virgin. In an instant a 
crowd collected, her escort was attacked, and the angry throng 
seized her Utter and threw it into the Seine, unwitting that she 
had meantime slipped out and escaped in the general hubbub. 
Sacrilege was nothing to them. At the funeral of a certain 
Huguenot the Catholics dug up the body, and when the 
mourners again tried to bury it, they again exposed it and put 
it in the midst of the muddy high-road. The atmosphere was 
charged with suspicion. Spies were set to watch doubtful 

193 o 



i 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

persons on their walks, and if any pious genuflexion was 
omitted, any ambiguous word dropped in conversation, any 
smile observed, however remote its cause, while some priestly 
procession was filing by, the unconscious victims were at once 
attacked and haled to their destruction. Sometimes they 
were hacked to pieces, sometimes they were drowned in the 
river, once a well was found full of them ; and perhaps the 
most revolting symptom in all these persecutions is the fact 
that the children of Paris were allowed to mutilate the bodies. 
Morality cannot sink to a lower depth than the deliberate 
perversion of childhood, and the direct result of these enormi- 
ties was the generation of Henri III. 

The Protestant children were at any rate more edifying than 
their foes. Of their own accord they gathered together and 
held services in the open air, " singing the Psalms of David " 
with clear young voices, while one among them was chosen to 
preach and pray. 

Paris, throughout these agitations, was the chief scene of 
persecution. The Sorbonne, the University, above all, the 
cruel Paris crowd, set themselves against innovation with the 
same implacable hatred. " God has not forgotten the people 
of Paris ! " was their war-cry, and they followed it with 
slaughter so horrible that the English Ambassador asked per- 
mission to withdraw. " All the towns of the kingdom put 
together " — cried Catherine—" would not bring me one half of 
the evils that I endure from Paris alone ! " The city per- 
sonally resented her moderate Edicts ; the Parlement refused to 
register them, the people to obey them. In the hope of check- 
ing these enormities, she issued a decree forbidding the punish- 
ment of heretics except officially by magistrates, but the 
Parisians paid no attention and continued to take justice 
into their own hands. And when she made a fresh attempt 
to promote some sort of toleration, they presented a formal 
petition, asking her — should the new measure pass — to let 
them leave France for some country where they would be 
allowed to live at peace in the Catholic faith. The clergy, too, 
actually rebelled when commanded to publish these Edicts 
from the pulpit. " Do they wish me to tell you"— cried a 
preacher—" that the cats and the rats are to live in peace to- 
gether and not to do harm to one another ? ... I am not a 
town-crier, or a city-trumpeter that I should make such pro- 
clamations ! " " And for a long time afterwards, the 
priests could talk of nothing in their sermons but of Ahab and 

194 



THE HUGUENOTS 

Jezebel . . . the King of Navarre and the Queen-Mother" 
— so notes an old diarist who must often have listened to these 
homilies. Louder and louder grew the complaints that the 
Court always favoured the Huguenots and put their oppo- 
nents in the wrong — " Constraining the poor Catholics to be as 
patient as sheep." It is one of their number who thus com- 
ments, but their likeness to those meek animals seems rather 
far to seek. Although they may have had to suffer occasional 
injustice from the Regent., they took good care that their 
fortunes should not be substantially injured. 

" The Huguenots "—said Tavannes — " were intent on 
establishing a democracy," ^ and though, by now, the idea has 
become a platitude, it is strange to find a contemporary — 
especially a rude old soldier — already conscious of its meaning. 
Apart from doctrinal revolution and intellectual claims, the 
Reformation was fa movement suited to popular energies. 
And the central object of the Reformers' first campaign was a 
truly democratic one — the luxury and immorality of the 
priests. It was, thinks Claude Haton, the sudden increase of 
this class — of these parasites who exhausted the community 
— which sharpened men's desire for reform; it was also their 
boorishness and ignorance. " For in a time of peace such 
village labourers as had three or four boys were delighted to 
send one to the Schools to make a priest of him, however vicious 
the life of his fellow-scholars." No wonder that the results 
were evil. Every history of the time abounds in details of 
clerical self-indulgence. "They are" (thus runs one account), 
" so befrizzed and besponged and bescented that they are in 
good sooth more like lovers, or the priests of Venus than the 
priests of Jesus Christ." The Council of Poissy passed a 
peremptory decree forbidding the clergy to wear " silk gar- 
ments or slashed hose," but as no such measure could touch 
the wealth which was the source of the evil, all remained much 
as before. Ecclesiastical avarice had reached its climax. 
" No baby is baptized without money ; no priest is ordained 
without money ; no man and woman can marry without 
giving sums of money to the clergyman. These churchmen 
sell benches to their congregations at seven or eight crowns 
each ; . . . they will not put up prayers in the Temple of God 
unless they are handsomely paid . . . and they will not allow 
the burial of the dead without charging for opening up the 

^ He adds that it was a democracy imbued with the aristocratic 
element. 

195 



CATHERINE DE^ MEDICI 

earth ... so much so that in some churches they ask ten 
pounds a corpse.'* Nor were they less ribald than grasping. 
"The first folk in brawls were always the priests, their 
swords in their hands; they were the first, too, at dances 
... at fencing-matches, at taverns ; and they reeled about 
the streets all night with the greatest scoundrels in the land." 
This is the testimony of a Catholic, and as such can hardly 
be rejected. And the worst part of these excesses was the 
immunity of those who committed them, for even supposing 
they were prosecuted, they always had a means of escape. This 
was ''the postern gate, the false doorway of Justice, the Court 
of the Spiritual Power ; hither resorted every kind of tonsured 
miscreant : homicides, parricides, thieves, false coiners . . . 
as to a free haven from their crimes, where no one was too 
wicked to find salvation." And yet the majority of these 
men did not seem phenomena of vice to their contemporaries, 
nor did they often sink below the line of current morality ; 
when they did, and when Protestant standards began to leaven 
pubhc opinion, an outcry at once arose against them. French 
irony awoke to a sense of the situation, and from the days of 
Rabelais to those of Voltaire, French irony has been a potent 
weapon, swift to destroy shams. A shrewd spectator of the 
time sums up the whole matter : " Those " — he says — " who are 
not ' in religion ' are the only rehgious people, for they have 
more troubles and more work for soul and body than the 
monks, who are well nicknamed ' Sans souci,' and never lose 
one hour of their pleasures. . . . This advantage they enjoy, 
too, over laymen — that they do not have a single worry. . . . 
/That is why the Jesuits are more deserving ; at any rate they 
I work, and teach, and preach to the Infidels and are useful." 
Words such as these ring a knell announcing that the day of 
despot priests and of criminal prelates was over. 

Against the sumptuous pride of such men, the sobriety of 
the Huguenot ministers stood out in striking contrast. The 
pomp and the pageant of the Mass, the blaze of candles and of 
vestments, were to pale before the simplicity of Preches, which 
demanded nothing but a bare room, or a summer grass-plot. 
" As for the preacher, he held the service beneath a walnut- 
tree — he the while sitting in a chair, with a little table in front 
of him covered with a cloth that the Huguenots had brought 
with them, and upon the table there was only an open Bible." 
The author of this passage was a Papist, evidently stirred, in 
spite of himself, by what he saw. He also gives a moving 

196 



THE HUGUENOTS 

account of a Huguenot funeral, which stands out in strong 
relief against the costly mourning processions so often de- 
scribed in the annals of the Catholic aristocracy. A Protestant 
nobleman had lost his wife. " He entered the church with the 
preacher. When the coffin was placed near the grave, before 
it was let down into the trench, the husband struck the bier 
three times with his foot, saying ' Sleep, Charlotte, sleep, until 
the Lord awaken thee.' These words he said twice, and then 
he went down into the trench. The preacher gave a funeral 
sermon, and every one sang some psalms of Marot's — the 
psalms that this sect calls its own.'* 

The grave intensity that distinguished these proceedings 
went deeper than mere form. The ministers, as we have said, 
together with a few choice spirits, were the salt of the whole 
movement. The consistency of their life with their ideals 
gave them a strong hold upon their flocks, for consistency 
appeals to the gros bons sens of the people. It gave them, too, 
a solid advantage over the priests, and nothing is more sur- 
prising than the freedom which these Reformers used in theo- 
logical discussion with prelates. There was one occasion 
when the Bishop of Chalons was sent to Vassy, accompanied 
by a monk famous for his eloquence, to try and check the 
growing heresy of the place. The Bishop begged the chief 
clergy to urge their parishioners to come and hear this friar, 
but was courteously told that they would not Hsten to false 
prophets, nor would the townspeople do so. But if the Bishop, 
they said, would come and hear their service, he would find 
that they proclaimed nothing that was not contained in the 
Gospel. The Bishop, to their great surprise, consented, and 
came in great state to the church with his monk and an atten- 
dant train. He tried his best, however, to keep off the con- 
gregation and he stopped the church-bells from ringing, but 
the Protestants gave their secret signal " de main en main^^ 
to one another, and the congregation gathered in silence. 
We can picture the curious scene : the people, hke a swarm of 
bees, settHng on their benches, the prelate in his purple and 
gold tissue, the prosperous monk by his side, the stern minister 
by the altar. He was saying a prayer to the Holy Spirit when 
the Bishop first interrupted him. But the minister, not allow- 
ing him to finish, took up the word. " ' As I was first in 
the pulpit,' he said, * it is right that I should speak first. If 
you find anything to object to in my doctrine, you can say so 
afterwards.' The Bishop would only repeat the same words 

197 



CATHERINE DE» MEDICI 

as before. ' Very well then,' exclaimed the minister at length, 

* if you wish so much to talk, do so, not in your quality of 
Bishop but only as a private individual, for we do not recog- 
nize you as anything else.' * Why is this ? ' asked the Bishop, 

* since my ofhce has come to me through the laying on of 
hands.' * Because ' — responded the minister — ' a Bishop must 
preach the Word of God in truth. ... But you, when have 
you fed your flock with the pasture of life ? When have you 
administered the Sacraments or done the least thing required 
by your position ? ' ' How do you know that I don't preach ? ' 
demanded the Bishop. ' Yesterday,' quoth the minister, 

* you yourself said that you could not preach and that the fact 
vexed you sorely.' ' And where ' — persisted the Bishop — ' is 
it written that Bishops must preach ? ' 'In Chapter vi of the 
Acts,' rephed the minister, ' and also in Chapter i of Timothy.' 
(But we must not forget to say, in passing, that the minister, 
studying his sermon that very morning, had by God's Pro- 
vidence happed upon these two passages in searching for 
something else, and so it was easy for him to answer thus 
promptly, his memory being quite fresh.) The Bishop saw 
that he was trapped : ' Oh,' he said, ' I preach by my Vicars.' " 
There ensued a wordy quarrel about their respective rights, 
the minister contending that the Bishop was no Bishop, since 
the people had not elected him. The prelate looked over his 
shoulder. *' I appeal to the Provost ! " he exclaimed in a rage, 
but that functionary did not support him. " ' You must all 
of you be off,' cried the Bishop. * I see clearly that madness 
governs everything here.' ' No, no,' answered the other, 
' we are governed by the same holy zeal which inspired the 
Apostles to tell your predecessors it was better to obey God 
than man.' Whereupon the Bishop retired with his shame, 
nor was he so well attended as when he entered. . . . But 
when the people saw him withdraw with his monk who had 
never dared utter a word . . . many of them shouted ' After 
the wolf ! after the fox ! after the donkey ! Go to school ! 
Out with you, out ! ' " The ignominious couple repaired to 
the parish church, where the monk got up into the pulpit and 
preached to his master and the retinue ; but hearing some 
slight sound, he thought he was being pursued and fled down 
the pulpit stairs, leaving his slipper behind him, and neither 
he nor the Bishop stopped till they had escaped from the 
church. 

It was doubtless scenes like these that made persecution 

198 



THE HUGUENOTS 

more bitter. They also stirred the shrewd humour of the 
populace and helped the growth of the Protestant doctrines. 
These spread with amazing rapidity. Twenty years before 
the Council of Poissy, the new faith only numbered a few 
great names and the " simples gens mecaniques et artisans " : 
such humble folk as wandered from one town or province to 
another, some of whom had lived in Geneva, others in Ger- 
many. " Femmes, fols et en f ants, '^ is a mordant contemporary 
summary of these early converts to Protestantism, and the 
number was increased by twelve hundred, through the influence 
of the German mercenaries in the employ of France who so 
long pervaded the country. But in the decade after 1550, 
not only the quantity but the quahty of proselytes was 
changed. Where there had been one, there were now six, and 
whereas the provincial cities had formerly boasted twice as 
many Huguenots among the artizans as there were among the 
educated people, the statistics of 1560 showed that most of 
the bourgeois and gentlemen had gone over to the Reformed 
religion. The results of these conversions were strange, 
bordering on a kind of Christian vSocialism — a superficial andi 
exotic Sociahsm, not unlike that of modern drawing-rooms.! 
For " the gentlefolk and the Justices, notwithstanding they 
were richly clad, made room next them for the labourers and 
mechanics — working-men of every kind — and importuned 
each one, even the cowman and the swineherd, to sit close to 
them, in their coarse smocks and coats of linsey-woolsey ; and 
so as to give them courage to turn round, they offered them 
delicate meats, and wine in silver cups, all of which they 
brought to Preches." 

Such doings did not only mean a grotesque deterioration 
from due reverence, but were dangerous because of the atten- 
tion that they attracted, and they brought about several arrests. 

Throughout these developments Catherine preserved much , , 
the same demeanour. She still dallied with orthodoxy, but ' ! 
showed that her sympathies were Protestant. A party at 
Court, numbering many of her ladies, supported her. There ^ 
was also another set of people who arrived at the same tolerant 
conclusions by directly opposite roads — men who, like i^ 
Tavannes, thought that " there never was a disease of the 
brain so ill thought out as that of Calvinism ; wherefore, instead 
of lighting faggots, or using abnormal remedies, it is better to 
let Nature have her course." And thus, between the sceptics 
and the heretics, it was easy to maintain an atmosphere of 

199 



CATHERINE DE^ MEDICI 

moderation round the throne as long as there was no conflict 
with the country. There is no stranger record of the Regent's 
heterodoxy than the tale of a Catholic preacher who was at 
this time exciting Paris. He was a monk of about thirty, 
famed for his fervour and eloquence, and both Papists and 
Protestants flocked to his church to hear him. Rumours of 
the sensation he was making reached the ears of Catherine at 
Saint-Germain, and taking fright at his success, she sent 
delegates to Paris — " hommes curieux et de hon esprit " — to 
listen to his sermons and report to her. This they did in glow- 
ing terms. Catherine, who never lost time, straightway 
despatched five hundred foot and horses to seize the too 
popular monk and bring him to her to be judged. The cap- 
ture was impossible by day for fear of a revolt in the city, 
but when night came, a band of armed men entered the 
preacher's room and roused him from his sleep. In vain did 
he shout for assistance ; a few helpless neighbours put out 
their heads and, hearing some pistol shots, withdrew them 
again. The reluctant monk was taken and brought down 
the Seine in a little boat to Saint-Germain, where he was 
summoned before the King and his mother. They cross- 
examined him, they tried to confound him, they commanded 
a Protestant minister to hold a theological dispute with him. 
But for once the monk came off victorious ; in spite of which 
the Constable was ordered to conduct him to the kitchen and 
have him thrashed by tl^ lackeys there. This ignominious 
charge may have been Catherine's vengeance on the Catholic 
Constable for joining the three-fold League against her, a 
vengeance which failed as far as the priest was concerned. 
" For when they undressed him, they found a coarse hair- 
shirt next to his skin . . . the which moved the spectators 
to compassion. And the aforesaid Sieur Conne table . . . for- 
bade any person to injure him by word or deed." A deputa- 
tion had ere this arrived from Paris to beg that their preacher 
might be restored to them, and the King, giving his consent, 
sent him safely back to the city. 

Catherine's fear of an eloquent priest was anything but 
groundless. A Catholic revival at that moment meant a 
CathoHc insurrection which would not have been easy to quell ; 
but how far this dread was mixed up with her natural taste 
for heterodoxy it is difficult to say.[ She attempted to avoid 
the risk of public display on either side. The Huguenot 
party, meanwhile, perceiving their precarious situation, did 

200 



THE HUGUENOTS 

their utmost to sue for her favour. \ Jealous of the impression 
created by the wealth and shovT'of their adversaries, and 
fearful lest their humble trappings should draw down con- 
tempt upon their cause, they tried a little innocent strategy. 
On a solemn occasion when they were to file in procession past 
her windows, on their way to some function, they went so far 
as to doff their black and hire grand suits of clothes and 
fashionable tippets,* that she might be dazzled by delusions of 
their opulence. But when they walked past the palace in 
this childish and ungodly guise, she was not there to see, and 
their money, which had come out of the common purse, was 
found to have been spent in vain. 

Her absence was probably deliberate — as much an act of 
pohcy on her part as the queUing of the Catholic preacher. L_.It 
was gradually being borne in upon her that her own security 
would demand a renunciation of the Protestants ; that Spain 
was too strong for her, the King of Navarre too weak a prop to 
counterbalance its hostility, and the time not far off when 
she must stand forth as the champion of the Catholics. Dis- 
integrating influences were at work in her mind, but she was 
too wary to let any sign of them appear in her outward be- 
haviourj If a storm were brewing, men only knew that this 
was so By the stillness of the air. 

Old writers give two derivations of the word Huguenot. 
Some say it came from a corruption of the German noun 
" Eidgenossen," or " confederates " ; others attribute it to 
" Hugues," an old ghost of Tours. In the deserted place that 
he was supposed to haunt, the heretics held their Preches by 
night, and, so says legend, the folk of the country-side learned 
to call them the Huguenots, or followers of Hugues. Modern 
readers may choose whichever derivation they please ; accu- 
racy may perhaps demand the first, but allegory prefers the 
second. For the Huguenots were surely the ghosts who 
haunted the hidden places in the Hfe of Catherine de' Medici. 



201 



CHAPTER X 

Catherine and the Prince de Conde 



203 



AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 



Memoirs du Prince de Conde. 

Journal de Tan 1 562 — Revue Ritrospective, 

Memoirs de Henri II — Archives Curieuses. 

Memoirs de Tavannes. 

Biographical Introductions to " Lettres de Catherine de* Medici.' 

Histoire de France — Michelet. 

Histoire de France — Martin. 

Relations de la Diplomatic Venitienne — Baschet, 

Jeanne d'Albret — Miss Freer, 



204 



CHAPTER X 

Catherine and the Prince de Conde 

THE Venetian ambassador, Michieli, has left us a portrait 
of Catherine in this same year of 1562, when she was 
forty- three years old. 

"Her intelligence" (he says) "is all alive — she is affable, 
capable in affairs, diplomatic before all things. . . . She 
never loses the King from sight, nor allows any one but herself 
to sleep in his room. She knows that there is a grudge against 
her because she is a foreigner . . . but she holds everything 
in the hollow of her hand . . . including the royal seals. In 
the Council Chamber she lets others speak first, but her opinion 
is their final Court of Appeal. ... In her way of living — 
materially speaking — she shows very little rule. Her appetite 
is enormous ; she is assiduous in taking exercise, walking much, 
riding hard . . . hunting with the King, her son, pushing him 
into the midst of tangled thickets, following him with an intre- 
pid courage such as one rarely sees . . . While she walks or 
eats she always talks about affairs with somebody or other. She 
turns her mind not only to things political, but to so many others 
that I don't know how she can face all these manifold interests. 
And she is quite the woman to undertake six important build- 
ings at the very moment when all these thoughts are pre- 
occupying her. . . . Nor does she lack means to find money. . . 
Her allowance of 300,000 francs a year is double that of any 
other Queen-Dowager and she spends largely and liberally. . . . 
Her complexion is ohve-coloured and she is already a stout 
woman." 

This ohve-coloured woman (a pendant to the " sea-green " 
Robespierre) was still playing high for power. " For she was 
stealthy and of such a crafty maUce that she dehghted in 
setting the Princes by the ears." Men began to call her 
" Madame la Rouyne," instead of " Madame la Royne (Reine)," 
and " Madame le Serpent," was another favourite nickname 

205 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

for her. " The Huguenots say that she cheated them by 
sweet words and by her air of deceiving kindness, while all the 
time she was plotting their destruction with the Catholic King. 
The Catholics, on the other hand, say that if the Queen had not 
encouraged the Huguenots, they would not have gone so far." ^ 
Thus the Venetian ambassador, who well knew the woman he 
was writing about. Catherine continued to try prevarica- ^ 
tion and to stave off decision as long as she could. " This 
business needs other counsel than that of force," she writes, 
"for I don't want to make matters worse, still less to have 
trouble abroad, and my only wish is to let time pass, if possible, 
without spoiling anything irremediably until my son comes 
of age. . . . Those who are seriously ill are excusable if, 
when their pain grows unbearable, they use every kind of herb 
to soothe it while they are waiting for the doctor's arrival. . . . 
For to imagine that this kingdom can continue in obedience 
and concord, while men's spirits are so much bruised and tossed 
with divers opinions, why, there is not a soul alive who does 
not know this to be impossible." 

But she found that a stronger medicine was needful, and 
her policy of self-preservation forced her to turn even more ' 
distinctly towards the Catholic party. ^ 

" Monsieur de Limoges " (she says this year to her Ambas- 
sador in Spain), " I should like all my lords to write to the 
King of Spain and tell him how I stand with regard to religion 
. . . because of the lies that have been spread concerning 
me. . . . For neither in will, nor deed, nor in my way of living, 
have I changed my religion — and I have held it these forty- 
three years and was baptized and brought up therein, and I 
am not at all sure that most people can say as much. And 
no one must be surprised that I am annoyed, for this falsehood 
has lasted too long for mortal patience ; and when one has a 
clean conscience it wounds one sorely that those who have 
none should talk so boldly of this matter. Show this letter 
to the Duke of Alva and to the King, for I do not wish him to 
think that I am begging for a testimonial merely because all 
my life I have kept a straight road. I am writing because 
I can no longer bear to receive people's suffrage as a charity, 
and because I want to shut the mouths of those who have 
hitherto taken pains to put me out of the favour of His Majesty, 
my son-in-law, which I treasure more dearly than my own 
life." 

She founded her hopes of a reconciliation with Spain upon 

206 



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Louis ue Kouubon, Prince de Conde, 

VEKS 1565. 
PORTRAir ANONVME. KIBLIOTHEQUK NATIONALS. 

Front a photograph by A. Giraudon, 



-/ 



CATHERINE AND THE PRINCE DE CONDE 

the possible abolition of the mischief-making Guises. The 
injuries done her, she tells Limoges, all come " from the same 
shop." "There are those" (she says) " who want to prove 
that nothing marches well without the Guises . . . But instead 
of my thinking that all will go to ruin if the Cardinal is no longer 
here, I assure you that it would be this event alone which 
would give me the means of putting everything to rights 
again." Jeanne d'Albret herself writes to warn her foe of 
the Guises' double-dealing and to tell her of a letter from the 
Cardinal which had fortunately been intercepted on its way 
to Alva, in Spain. " Whatever assurance the Queen-Mother 
makes me," so the wily prelate had written, *' I cannot believe 
in the least that (supposing a certain person were not in ex- 
istence), she would not let herself go completely. She is such 
a dissembler that when she says one thing, she thinks another. 
Her one aim is to rule — as she does. As for the rest, I know 
that it does not trouble her." The writer of this note was not 
far wrong, for at that very time she was making pathetic 
appeals to Antoine of Navarre to protect the royal widow 
and orphans — an appeal, as usual, only answered with fair 
words. 

Meanwhile the Guises, powerful though they were, had grown 
thoroughly alarmed at the increasing power of the Protestants. 
They knew that Catherine was wavering and that their only 
course was to excite her suspicions. And they had good 
ground to go upon, for they had discovered indications of a^ 
Huguenot conspiracy of which they warned the King and the 
Regent. Yet de Beze, who had jpreached throughout Lent, 
was allowed to continue his sermons, while the Puritans filed 
through the streets chanting the Lamentations of Jeremiah. 
The strain throughout the city was intense and everybody 
felt that a crisis was fast approaching. On Easter Monday 
" the Papists and the Huguenots came and went all together, 
the first to * Pardon,' the others to ' Preches.' And they 
looked at each other and neither spake a word." These few 
lines, written by a citizen in his journal probably straight on 
his return from witnessing the scene, fill us with a strangely 
vivid dread, and the silence of these grim processions is more 
ominous than speech. Soon after, a letter from a minister 
which was intercepted on its way, brought the Guises the /' 
news that the Huguenots were planning a wholesale massacre / 
of the Catholics, having first learned, they said, that the / 
Catholics had meant to do the same by them'. " And he cited 

207 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

the example of Gideon and Judith and wrote that he felt in 
his spirit a God-sent vocation to do this deed " — so reports 
the same citizen, who had just seen the fatal document. The 
Due de Guise took instant action. He armed fifteen hundred 
of his men who swore that they would die in his service ; and, 
determined to play the King in Paris and produce an indehble 
impression, he summoned Corporation and Parlement to 
attend him at his Hotel du Temple, where with much arrogant 
ceremony he made them swear fealty to him. The orthodox 
of Paris mustered strong ; they hghted a great bonfire in the 
Rue St. Jacques and for three hours burned all the Bibles 
they could lay hands on. The churches of the city were 
crowded ; and when the Cardinal preached on the Real 
Presence, St. Germain TAuxerrois was thronged to overflowing 
with the fashion and the learning of the capital. The 
Preches, on the contrary, had grown emptier : it was easy to 
see, says a spectator, that the Prince de Conde had departed. 
For the Prince had been warned that Paris was no longer 
a safe abode for him and he left it suddenly in secret. 
His adversaries said that he had meant to seize Paris, but 
finding that his scheme was discovered he had thrown it 
up in despair. However that may be, he now proceeded to 
Meaux. His programme was to muster the Protestant leaders 
and to await help from the Regent who was with the King at 
Fontainebleau. Catherine, terrified at the turn affairs had 
taken, at the imminence of war and the re-established supre- 
macy of the Guises, had foreseen that she would fall into their 
power, and again changed front. She suspected — and events 
proved her right — that they meant to remove her by force with 
the King to Paris, where they could watch all her movements. 
At Fontainebleau she had free play and opportunity to cor- 
respond with Conde. She knew this state of things could not 
last, and she threw herself and her son upon that gallant 
Prince's protection — confided her fears and woes to him — 
entreated his instant succour. Conde replied that, before all else, 
she should make herself mistress of Orleans and place Charles 
IX there in safety. There followed those letters from Catherine 
which became of such signal importance because Conde used 
them as a justification for making war. Catherine, on her side, 
protested with a great show of frankness that he had mis- 
represented her meaning, that she had begged him only to 
protect the King, not to take the side of his enemies ; and that, 
the purposes of loyalty once fulfilled, she had wished the Prince 

208 



CATHERINE AND THE PRINCE DE CONDE 

to lay down arms. Her letters, of which for a long time only 
fragments were given, have now been discovered and re- 
published, and the three which bear on the point in question 
are worth quoting here whole, if only as a specimen of the 
suave casuistry by which the Regent wrought such havoc. 

" My Cousin " (runs the first of these) — 

" I have spoken to Ivoy as freely as if he had been your- 
self, because I am sure that he is faithful and will say nothing 
to any one but you, and that you will never quote me and will 
have no other thought than the safety of the children and their 
mother — as befits one whom this concerns, one, too, who may 
be certain that he will never be forgotten. Burn this letter 
at once. 

" Votre bonne cousine, 

" Catherine." 

This was closely followed by : 

" My Cousin — 

" Thank you for the trouble you give yourself in sending 
me such constant news of you and, as I hope to see you so soon, 
I will not now write a long letter. I will only pray you to feel 
sure that I shall never forget what you are doing for me ; and 
if I die before I am able to acknowledge it as I wish, I shall 
leave instructions to my children. I have ordered the bearer 
of this to tell you something which I beg you to believe ; and 
I feel confident that you will know that everything I do is 
done to restore peace and repose — a consummation which I 
know you desire as much as 

" Votre'^bonne cousine, 

" Catherine." 

" If you please give my comphments to your wife and your 
mother-in-law and your uncle." 

Soon after, came the last of the three : 
" My Cousin — 
"I see so many things which vex me, that if it were not 
for my faith in God and my conviction that you will help me 
to keep this kingdom safe and to serve my son, the King, in 
spite of those who wish for universal ruin, f should be yet more 
vexed ; but I hope we shall still remedy all things with your 
good counsel and aid. And as I have told my mind at length 
to the bearer of this, I will not repeat it here, but will beg you 
to beheve all that he says to you both, on behalf of 

" Votre bonne cousine, 

" Catherine." 
209 p 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

The Regent's fears were now to be justified. The Due de 
Guise, followed by Navarre and Saint- Andre, arrived without 
warning at Fontainebleau and, Hstening to no remonstrance, 
compelled the King and his mother to return, well guarded, 
to Paris. Dressed in black, as if in mourning, they entered 
the city without state and remained there for a short time, 
till their tyrants removed them to Melun. Here, though 
treated with great courtesy, they were practically the prisoners 
of the Guises, cut off from outside communication and de- 
pendent upon continual intrigue for any letters that they sent 
or received. 

Meanwhile, Conde Hngered at Meaux awaiting the support 
that Catherine's letters had led him to expect, and here Coligny 
joined him. Neither of them objected to the delay, for both 
alike were anxious to stave off the horrors of civil war. It 
was after they had removed to Saint-Cloud that news reached 
them of the Guises' coup de main and of their carrying off the 
King and Regent. This put a new face on matters ; the time 
for hesitation was passed and they moved with armed troops 
towards Orleans. They advanced slowly, because Conde 
was still hoping to hear from the Queen-Mother ; but what 
was his surprise when a messenger arrived with a letter from 
her peremptorily ordering him to lay down arms and come 
to Paris. At the same time he had tidings that part of the 
Due de Guise's army was also marching upon Orleans. Conde 
was only six leagues off the city, but there was no time to be 
lost and the crisis called forth all his brilliance. He made a 
sudden rush with his troops, surprised the place, forced the 
hand of the Governor, and entered it in triumph amidst shouts 
of welcome and of " Vive I'Evangile " from the populace. 
Cohgny, d'Andelot, La Rochefoucauld, were with him ; so 
was Montgomery, the man whose lance had killed Henri II, 
and who had figured since then as an important person among 
the Huguenots — and there was nothing wanting to make the 
town what it now became, the centre of the Protestant party. 
Hence the Prince wrote to Geneva, to Austria, to every min- 
ister throughout France, the while he incited the townsfolk 
to work and fight for their faith, so that when the enemy 
arrived to attack Orleans, he found an organized resistance. 
Other cities followed suit. Within three months from 
the outbreak of war, Blois, Tours, Poitiers, La Rochelle, Agen, 
Montauban, Beziers, Nimes, Montpellier, Lyons, Valence, 
Caen, Dieppe, Bayeux, and twelve other less important places 

2X0 



CATHERINE AND THE PRINCE DE CONDE 

had declared for the Protestants. " When any one inquired 
what towns the Huguenots had reduced, the reply was, ' You 
should rather inquire the names of the places which they do 
not hold.' " 

Navarre covered Catherine with reproaches and told her 
that she was the cause of all the troubles of France, that she 
had set the Bourbons against the Guises and treated the princes 
of the blood " worse than she treated the lowest Italian of her 
suite." Catherine, beset by fear on all sides, wTote to the 
Cardinal de Chatillon and begged him to mediate between her 
and Conde, but she took good care to give her own version 
of the letters she had written to him from Fontainebleau. 
She had meant, she said, to write nothing more to the Prince 
de Conde ; but he, having asked her permission to wear arms 
for the sake of his own preservation and the service of herself 
and the King, she sent a note allowing him to do so, on con- 
dition that he would disarm the moment she told him she 
wished it. " And after the King of Navarre and all the lords 
had arrived at Fontainebleau, I sent my valet to the Prince 
and wrote that t begged him to lay down arms and to bid the 
rest do the same. But this he would not do, saying that his 
honour was at stake. . . . And seeing that he also told me 
that he wanted to keep his army, so that no one might diminish 
my authority, or take my children away from me ... I 
wanted to show him that I was not using force, and I sent 
Serlan to him to entreat him, as he loved me, to lay down 
arms. . . . But Serlan returned with the same answer that 
the valet had already brought me." ..." And not content " (she 
writes elsewhere) " with breaking his promise to disarm, when 
I begged and commanded him to do so, he wrongs me afresh 
by proclaiming throughout the realm that it was I who made 
him resort to arms and I who wished him to occupy the towns 
that have been taken in his name. ... I would, in sooth, 
pledge my Hfe to see the realm at peace as I desire, and as I 
pray God that it may be." 

*' We give you plenty of material for history " — Catherine 
might well have used these words, jotted down by a nameless 
chronicler in his diary of 1562. For as event followed event, 
the drama grew ever more entangled. The country was ablaze 
with civil war. Conde remained obstinate, alleging that 
Catherine had bidden him defend her and the King, and that 
he would not come to terms while the Guises kept them 
prisoners. If there was anything sincere about Catherine 

211 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

it was her desire for peace — a desire which in all her tortuous 
course never ceased to stand out clear and unaltered ; and in 
order to promote this end, she now persuaded the Guises to 
allow her to remove to Monceaux, that Conde might see that 
she was no captive. The tyrants at the same time caused the 
King to publish a manifesto declaring that he had full liberty, 
but neither Conde nor the nation were deceived by this evident 
falsehood. Distrust reigned everywhere, and Chant onnay 
wrote that even now no one knew to which party the Regent 
belonged. She was outwardly submitting to the Guises, and 
secretly writing to Marguerite de Savoie to help the Huguenots 
of Lyons and Provence. 

A country so distraught and so rudderless was an easy prey 
for other nations. Spain, England, Savoy, had each their 
own ambitions to fulfil and found easy means of gaining 
influence, since each of them was necessary to Catherine. For 
when she was a Catholic she needed Spain against the Guises, 
-and when she was a Protestant she needed England ; Savoy, 
bordering on France, was ever an invaluable ally. The con- 
stant possibihty of interference from the outside was a serious 
peril at this moment, and Catherine's only hope lay in the 
likelihood that one power would exasperate the other. Eliza- 
beth alone had the skill to dignify the word interference, 
and create the policy of intervention, a very important 
departure in the field of international politics. She inter- 
vened, it is true, in the nominal interests of the Protestants, 
but her real motive was either to win back Calais or, failing 
that, to take some port in Normandy and thus get a firm hold 
upon the French. Just now she was in constant correspon- 
dence both with Coligny and Conde, and had Catherine reso- 
lutely courted her friendship, she might still have offered a 
strong resistance to Philip II as well as to the Guises. But 
her fear of Spain, as always, held her back, and she lost her 
chance of evoking a large and closely-knitted Protestant 
party. 

Not even her fear of Spain, however, quite accounts for her 
choppings and changings at this eventful juncture — for the 
vacillating tactics which injured her in the eyes of the Guises 
and of every other faction. Any conduct on the part of the 
Regent which did not serve her self-interest makes us stop 
to wonder and to think, and over these particular months of 
her life there doubtless hangs a certain mystery. There is 
one hypothesis which explains it, but a mere hypothesis it 

212 



CATHERINE AND THE PRINCE DE CONDE 

remains, in spite of the rumours which supported it. For 
scandal was beginning to be busy about her and the Prince de 
Conde, and it soon became the talk of the town that she meant 
to make him her husband. Some tongues went further, as 
Claude Haton writes in his diary : " For " (says he) " the afore- 
said lady was taxed with dishonour by the common people, as 
well as by folk of repute . . . And the general opinion ran 
that she was in love — madly in love — with him. (amour euse 
d'un fol amour) but this I don't believe," so adds the shrewd 
commentator. Yet although he was probably right to dis- 
believe in a grande passion, so much smoke most likely meant 
some fire, and it is more than possible that the kind of emo- 
tional fascination which Conde exercised over her had a good 
deal to do with her strange behaviour during his rebelHon. 

The great Catholic force was divided into three sections — 
the first at Estampes, led by the King of Navarre ; the second 
in the neighbourhood of Rouen, led by the Due d'Aumale ; 
the third at Lyons, led by the Due de Nemours ; and against 
these the Prince de Conde continued to make gallant resist- 
ance. In despair of a solution, Catherine summoned Antoine 
de Navarre, who went to her under strong remonstrance ; for 
the Guises, knowing I'Echangeur too well, dreaded the heretical 
effect that her personal influence might have on him. Her 
move was a skilful one, for Navarre at last succeeded in 
making Conde consent to hold an interview with her. When 
the news of this was brought to her " she had a transport of 
joy," so said the Cardinal of Ferrara who happened to be with 
her at the time and could not have shared her rejoicings. 
She and Antoine travelled together to meet Conde, as he had 
appointed, at a little place called Toury, not far from Estampes, 
but the erratic Prince never appeared. He came the next day, 
excusing himself on the plea that he had waited for a stronger 
escort. Catherine was warm in her welcome, but his bearing 
to her was cold and he lost no time in coming to business. 
He wanted, he said firmly, the maintenance of the Edict of 
January and the removal of all the Catholic leaders. Catherine, 
on her side, prevaricated. She would grant, she said, liberty 
of conscience, but not of public worship, a clause which was a 
partial repeal of the Edict that not six months before she had 
forced upon the Parlement of Paris. They parted without 
coming to any agreement and a second interview, proposed 
by himself, did not bring more definite results. In vain she 
made an attempt to induce the leading Catholics to retire, 

213 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

and everything seemed at a standstill. But Conde was thaw- 
ing beneath her spell — and in the course of two more meetings 
he practically submitted. To the dismay of his colleagues, 
who must have thought that he was bewitched, he suddenly 
betrayed every principle that he and they had cherished, and 
pledged his word that all the Protestant leaders should with- 
draw and remain in seclusion until the King reached his 
majority. 

Upon receiving the news of this agreement, Coligny asked 
leave once more to see the Regent and bid her a reluctant fare- 
well, as not only, he said, was he going to retire to his house 
according to the treaty, but he, together with d'Andelot, 
intended to go away from France until the King should come 
of age. Catherine consented and travelled in Conde' s com- 
pany to the place that was fixed upon for the meeting. The 
Prince, who had gone so far towards peace as to sleep the night 
before with his brother of Navarre, hardly so much as took 
leave of him, so firmly had he resolved to return again with the 
Regent. When he and she reached their destination, Coligny 
kept them waiting for a long time ; and when he did appear, 
his arrival did not savour of a truce, for he brought with him 
two thousand foot and no less than four hundred horse. The 
fact was that he had a good memory and the thought of the 
arrest of Conde at Orleans kept him on the look-out for treachery. 
Catherine prudently made no comment, " but, like a wise 
princess, she thought the more," and, receiving his salute with 
all honour, she kissed him upon the Hps, as was her custom 
when she welcomed grandees. She expressed deep regret at 
his departure, promised to respect his property, and allowed 
him to take his leave. But what was her dismay when 
Conde suddenly announced his intention of accompanying the 
Admiral on his journey, instead of going back with Catherine 
as he had promised. She knew too well what it meant : 
Cohgny had refused to accept the conditions to which Conde 
had acceded ; Conde did not dare to tell the Regent that he 
had broken his word ; he got out of the difficulty by flight, and 
civil war again became imminent. 

Catherine did not know where to turn. Her so-called 
espousal of the Catholic cause had done very little for her, 
and she complained bitterly to Chantonnay that Philip had 
not given her the help that he had promised, adding that if 
he did not do so, her son, when he came of age, would act in 
all matters of rehgion exactly as it pleased him. Whereupon 

214 



CATHERINE AND THE PRINCE DE CONDE 

the Envoy, taking alarm, warned Philip that unless he sent 
support to the Regent, she would throw in her lot with the 
Huguenots — a conclusion which was the more likely since 
Paris, unappeased, was rising against her and she wished to 
reconcile England, which at that moment had an eye upon 
Havre. But the turn that events now took removed this im- 
mediate anxiety. The Catholics had a signal victory when they 
entered the town of Bourges. Montargis was the next place to 
be taken and, in the summer, Antoine de Navarre had moved 
from Estampes and begun to lay siege to Rouen. 

In the months that had passed, Antoine had been playing 
a sorry part. His character had not grown more stable. 
Caillette (a little quail whose coat changes colour) became the 
popular nick-name for him, and " Caillette qui tourne sa 
jaquette " was the refrain of a topical song in great vogue among 
the Huguenot soldiers. To them he was " Julian the Apos- 
tate " and their opponents were scarcely more respectful. 
" L'Echangeur understands nothing and perceives nothing" — 
wrote Catherine's secretary to her ambassador in Spain — 
*' It is not possible for any man to conduct himself worse than 
he does. He does not know to what Saint to bow and in all 
this business he is turned by every wind. . . . To-day when 
we were debating whether or no we should accept 10,000 men 
and 3,000 horse from His Majesty, the Queen-Mother said that 
to do so would be to proclaim the CathoHc King, King of 
France. L'Echangeur went off straighway and reported the 
Queen's words to Chantonnay, at which she feels much vexed, 
for she has no doubt that the ambassador will carry her remark 
to His Majesty." 

Antoine' s confidences to Philip were by no means unmotived, 
and on June 20 of this year, the King of Spain, anxious to 
make sure of him, granted him his long-cherished desire — 
Spanish Navarre. This must have been a brtter pill to his 
wife, since it was to her that the province should by rights 
have been restored. But she took no note of her husband 
and busied herself with home affairs and with the formal 
establishment of the Reformed religion in Beam. Antoine, 
greatly angered by the help she had given to Conde, now sent 
a Commission there to rout the Protestants and estabHsh 
the orthodox Church, but Jeanne coolly arrested his chief 
emissary and allowed her husband's name to be erased from 
the Liturgy used in her kingdom. "It is high time " (she 
said) " to quit the land of Egypt, to traverse the Red Sea, 

215 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

and to rescue the Church of Christ from amid the ruins of 
Babylon." 

Antoine took a mean vengeance upon his wife. Their 
little son, Henri, who was at Saint -Germain, under no better 
care than that of La belle Rouet, fell dangerously ill of small- 
pox, and his mother entreated Catherine to allow her to nurse 
the child. But the Regent and the King of Navarre knew too 
well that if they gave up the Prince they would lose the only 
hold they had upon her ; and all that she could gain was the 
Regent's permission to send the boy to Renee of Ferrara— 
who, Protestant though she was, was also the mother of the 
Duchesse de Guise and so, by a strange inconsistency, was 
allowed to be the young Henri's guardian. The boy recovered 
and the affair would remain unnoticed, were it not that this 
passage about their child was practically the last that took 
place between the King and Queen of Navarre. For at 
the siege of Rouen which followed it. King Antoine met with 
his death. 

The siege, begun in the summer, lasted till the end of 
October. The Protestants inside the town were reinforced 
by Elizabeth, who lent them help and promised them money 
on condition that they should give her Havre. The condition 
was granted and Havre was sold to the English. The 
Huguenots were to triumph still further. In mid-October, 
while Antoine was still before Rouen, he was severely wounded. 
La belle Rouet, who was with him, nursed him with the utmost 
devotion and he had the services of skilful doctors — one, the 
Jesuit Lauro, the other (characteristically enough) a Huguenot 
of some repute. Catherine was then with the besieging party 
which she had come to inspect, and her first letters give no 
indication that his condition showed cause for serious anxiety. 
He would not, however, obey his doctors, or take the rest that 
they prescribed. All the gayest and most ribald of the Regent's 
attendant dandies gathered in his sick-room to amuse him 
with the latest scandals from Court, while he hstened and 
laughed, stretched upon a low couch, with La belle Rouet by 
his side. Or companies of boys and girls danced before him 
to the music of timbrels and satisfied his insatiate need for 
noise and distraction. When the news came that his army 
had at last taken Rouen, he persisted in making a triumphal 
entry into the town in his litter, and was carried back in a 
fainting-fit. He rallied to enjoy fresh hcence and fresh laughter, 
but there was now no doubt that his days were numbered, 

216 



CATHERINE AND THE PRINCE DE CONDfi 

and his Huguenot doctor begged a certain great prelate, who 
was there, to tell him so. Antoine heard the verdict with un- 
ruffled calm, but he sent the crowd away from his room and 
begged to be alone with La belle Rouet. 

His mind now veered again towards religion and all his old 
waverings came back. He was, he owned, a Catholic by pro- 
fession, yet his heart returned to the Protestant faith. Lauro, 
seeing the King's peril, at once brought a priest to his bedside 
and x\ntoine yielded and confessed, but his doing so was fol- 
lowed by despondency. That evening, Catherine came to visit 
him and to bid him a last farewell before she left Rouen for 
Vincennes. " Brother," said she when she observed his 
melancholy, " you should get somebody to read to you." 
" Madam," he answered with hesitation, " the people around 
me are now mostly Huguenots." " They are no less your 
servants, Monseigneur," was the Regent's ambiguous retort. 
When she had left him, he ordered one of these Protestant 
attendants to read aloud the Book of Job, to which he listened 
devoutly. " Ah, Raphael," he presently exclaimed, " here 
are you who have served me these twenty years and it is only 
now that you warn me about the miserable mistakes of my 
life ; " whereupon he confessed his sins aloud and swore that 
if he recovered, he would send forth Lutheran missionaries 
to preach the Gospel throughout France. Nor was this mood 
only of the moment. The remembrance of his wife haunted 
him, and more than once he said that he was surprised at her 
not coming to see him in his illness. One evening when the 
same " Raphael " was reading out from St. Paul and came 
to the words, "Wives, obey your husbands," Antoine impetu- 
ously stopped him. " You see " — he broke in — " that God 
Himself commands women to give obedience to their hus- 
bands." " True, Sire,'' rephed the bold Raphael, " but the 
Scriptures also say, ' husbands love your wives.' " 

Shortly before the end, he bade his attendants tell every one 
that he had once more become a Huguenot. *' Never mind if 
they believe it or not," he said, "for I am firmly resolved to 
live — or die — in accordance with the Confession of Luther." 
Jn the middle of November his friends agreed to move him. 
He was carried by night to a boat and taken down the Seine 
towards Saint-Maur, his brother, the Cardinal de Bourbon, 
and the Prince de Roche- sur- Yon being with him. The 
movement of the boat greatly increased his sufferings, and 
towards morning he begged his faithful Raphael to repeat the 

217 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Huguenot prayers for those in extremity. All the people on 
board knelt round him, taking part in the solemn service, 
except the Cardinal and the Prince, who did not uncover their 
heads but stood aside in protest. Yet when the prayers were 
ended, the Cardinal de Bourbon was heard to mutter to himself 
— " These are, indeed, true orisons and not what I supposed ; 
they beheve as we do." Notwithstanding, he had no hesitation 
in sending for a Jacobin priest to preside over the last scene 
of aU. 

The King had been carried on shore, for his consciousness 
was last ebbing. He had been lying for some time with his 
eyes closed, and when he opened them he found a strange 
monk bending over him. " Who are you that thus address 
me ? " he asked — " I die as a sincere Christian." But the 
monk prayed on uninterrupted and when he had done, 
Antoine said " Amen." Thus he passed away, while he was 
still in his prime, for he was barely thirty-four years of age. 
He died as he had lived, between two religions, playing with 
both, convinced of neither, sentimental, irresolute, unblest, 
the sport of unresisted fate. 

The Catholics made the most of the Jacobin monk and 
described Antoine's death in rapturous terms. " Our Lord 
called him to Himself, but so great was his knowledge of God 
and so deep his repentance that he may be said to have had 
the most beautiful and holy death possible," so runs a letter 
from Charles IX, which the Guises had evidently dictated. 
But such words duped no one of importance, and death itself 
could not dignify Antoine de Navarre. 

What Jeanne felt when she learned that she was a widow — 
what bitter pangs of remembered happiness — history does not 
record. Within seven months afterwards, Chantonnay was 
trying to arrange her marriage with the mad Don Carlos ; or, 
failing him, with Don John of Austria, the illegitimate son 
of Charles V. For all answer, Jeanne interdicted the exercise 
of the Roman faith in her realm, confiscated the property of 
the Church, and used it for the benefit of the Protestants and 
the foundation of colleges and schools ; while a permanent 
Council of Nine was established by her *' to settle the affairs 
of religion and administer these newly acquired revenues." 
She kept nothing for herself or for any private person. All 
churches with insufficient congregations were to be given over 
to the Reformers, and in places where the two sects were 
equally balanced, the church, she decreed, should be the 

218 



CATHERINE AND THE PRINCE DE CONDE 

common property of both. In vain did Pope Paul IV excom- 
municate her. She burnt the images of the Saints round every 
shrine, had the High Altar removed from the cathedral of 
Lescar, and was present with great solemnity at the first 
Huguenot service that was held there. Little recked she of 
Papal Bulls ; she saw one thing before her and accomplished 
the task that she had set herself. 

The Cardinal d'Armagnac threatened her with the enmity 
of France and Spain. " Assure yourself, Madam," he wrote, 
" that it is impossible for you to plant a new religion in your 
narrow territories, surrounded as you are by such potent kings 
and not having, Hke the realm of England, the great ocean as 
a rampart." "I well know the Kings, my neighbours" — she 
retorted — '* The one hates the rehgion I profess and I also abhor 
his faith. . . . The other is the root of my race, from which it 
is my greatest honour to be an oifshoot." And she continues 
to give the Cardinal her views in words that could not be accused 
of any Jesuitical tendency. " As to what you observe " — ^she 
says—" about the early Fathers of the Church, I hear them 
constantly quoted by our ministers . . . but I own that 
I am not as learned as I ought to be in this matter. I do not 
believe, however, that you are more competent than myself, 
for I remark you have always applied yourself more to the 
study of poHtics than of divinity. . . . Turn to the 22nd 
chapter of St. Luke's Gospel, and learn for the future to com- 
prehend a passage before you quote it : an error of the kind, 
nevertheless, would be excusable in a woman, such as I am, 
but, certes, mon cousin, to see an old Cardinal like yourself so 
ignorant kindles shame ... I know not where you have learned 
that there are so many diversities of sects among our ministers ; 
though, at the CoUoque de Poissy I became very sensible of 
your own divisions in doctrine and practice. We have one 
God, one faith, one law ... I thank the Lord that I know, 
without the aid of your teaching, how to serve and please Him, 
and the King my sovereign lord, and all other Princes ... all 
of whom I appreciate better than you can do. I also know 
how to bring up my son, so that hereafter he may be great 
and revered. . . , You request me not to think it strange 
or to take in bad part what you have written. Strange — I set 
no value on 3^our words, considering of what order you are ; 
but as to taking them in bad part, that I do as much as is 
possible in this world. ... I bid you keep your tears to deplore 
your own errors ; to the which, out of charity, I will add my 

219 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

own ; putting up, at the same time, the most fervent prayer 
that ever left my lips, that you may be restored to the true 
fold, and become a faithful shepherd instead of a hireling . . . 
and Hkewise I desire that your useless letter may be the last 
of its kind. . . . From her who knows not how to subscribe 
herself ; being fearful of signing herself your friend, and who 
ever doubts her relationship to you ; but whom, in the day of 
your penitent repentance, you will find 

" Votre bonne cousine et amye, 

" Jehanne." 

This letter is not a triumph of diplomacy, but Jeanne could 
be persuasive when she chose, and Catherine now wrote beg- 
ging her to make the Prince de Conde listen to reason. No 
truce, however, was yet possible, and the month of Navarre's 
death was a fatal one in all ways for Catherine, and completed 
a disastrous record. The Protestants were signally victorious, 
and after wresting from her first Havre, and then Rouen, two 
of her most important places, they proceeded towards Paris. 
Their cruelties, horrible to read of, were helping to depopulate 
the country and one of their leaders, the barbarous Baron 
d'Adrets, by himself had near a thousand men massacred, 
besides four hundred and sixty women and eighty innocent 
children. The Catholic army was no better ; while, added 
to the horrors of war, a bitter cold summer of persistent fog 
and rain, and a winter of unusual severity brought famine and 
pestilence in their train and made appalling devastations — 
eighty thousand poor people dying in the Hotel-Dieu at Paris 
alone. The trenchant pen of Ronsard has described the 
general ruin in his " Discours des miseres de ce temps." 

Des longtemps les ecrits des antiques prophetes, 
Les songes mena9aiits, les hideuses cometes, 
Avaient assez predit que I'annee soixante et deux 
Rendrait de tous cotes les Fran9ais malheureux . . 
. . . Le ciel qui a pleure tout le long de I'annee, 
Et Seine qui courait d'une vague effrenee, 
Et betail, et pasteurs, et maisons ravissait, 
De son malheur futur Paris avertissait . . . 
. . . L'artisan par ce monstre a laisse sa boutique, 
Le pasteur ses brebis, I'avocat sa pratique . . . 

/ It was through a sadly stricken country that Conde and his 
men had to march before they reached their destination and 
prepared to besiege Paris. The Due de Guise, with his force, 
followed close upon his enemy's heels, expecting to be joined 

220 



CATHERINE AND THE PRINCE DE CONDE 

by the Spanish troops that Philip had promised. These, 
however, did not appear, and the Duke found himself in a 
perilous position, at the head of a dispirited army eager to 
pillage and slaughter. " Notwithstanding," says their frivolous 
chronicler, " fresh courage was put into all the soldiers, for 
that they were marching towards the good wines of France 
and away from the cider of Normandy." 

History, we are bound to own, provides other reasons for 
their final success. Catherine's diplomacy came to the rescue 
and she again induced Conde to meet her outside the walls 
of Paris and to hold a conference with her at the riverside 
Mill of Chantilly. " The Queen" — says Claude Haton's diary — 
" started for this interview with a very small retinue. I do 
not think she asked the King's leave to go ; still less did she 
consult the Constable, the Due de Guise, or the Marechal de 
Saint- Andre. For she wished to take this journey solely on 
her own authority, on the pretext of negotiating peace and of 
saving my Lord the Prince from more rebeUion. With whom she 
remained deep in conversation for the space of five hours, 
quite alone with him in his tent without being seen by any- 
one. And of that which they did, said, and determined no 
man knew a word. . . . But this journey of hers and this con- 
ference gave rise to much suspicion among all conditions of 
people, wherether they were princes or lords, or only the 
citizens of Paris." 

The interview lasted so late that Catherine went back by 
torchlight. It was followed by a second one at St. Marceau, 
and after the lapse of a day (during which, as a chronicler 
tells us, the Regent was ill with the whooping cough) they met 
again for the third time. After talking with him for a space, 
she retired to the Constable at Ecouen, to hold a private Council 
with him. But Conde had grown wary and did not mean to 
let her shp. During the colloquy there arrived a present from 
him — a noble white horse, led by a trumpeter, which stood 
pawing the ground outside the palace. " The which horse 
could not endure that other horses should come near it, but 
kicked them whenever they approached." A horse so con- 
scious of aristocratic privilege was worthy of its Bourbon 
donor and its royal recipient, but its diplomatic purpose was 
unfulfilled. 

Whatever truth there was in current rumours, there was 
another reason for these interviews and one which soon be- 
came evident. For while Catherine held Conde fast in dis- 

221 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

cussion, the long-expected help from Spain arrived and the 
Due de Guise was enabled to enter Paris in triumph. 

A pitched battle now became inevitable, and on the 19th 
of December, the two armies met at Dreux, between Paris and 
Rouen. At dawn on that day, the solemn sound of prayer 
arose from the Huguenot camp. The ministers, mounted on 
horseback, were holding their Preches and singing Marot's 
psalms in French, " each one for his own regiment. . . . And 
they sang with so loud a voice that the King's camp heard them 
most clearly. . . . But, from the early morning, the Duke, 
Monsieur de Guise, had caused Mass to be sung by his army, 
at the which every soldier was present. And when it was 
over, the general Absolution was given to the whole Catholic 
host by the priest who had sung the Mass." After which 
memorable preface, Catholics and Huguenots, alike, rushed upon 
each other in the field. The fight was long and fierce ; Saint- 
Andre lost his life, the Constable was taken prisoner ; but in 
spite of these Protestant triumphs, the day ended with a great 
victory for the Catholics, who could boast that if their foes 
had caught the Constable, they themselves had won as captive 
no less a prize than Conde. In the meantime, while they were 
rejoicing, a false rumour had travelled to Paris and a breathless 
soldier — one who must have fled from the field when he saw 
that the Constable was taken — galloped into Paris on a horse 
without a bridle and announced with tears in his eyes that 
Montmorency was slain and that the Protestants had gained 
the day. This was on a Sunday morning. Paris was filled 
with anguish, while the Huguenots walked about showing 
their joy upon their faces. But their day of pride was a short 
one, for Monday, which brought the true tidings, filled all their 
houses with sorrow and turned the Guises' mourning to re- 
joicing. The King and Catherine attended a splendid service 
of thanksgiving ; processions wound through the streets and 
all the bells of Paris rang solemnly. 

From this time until the month of March, negotiations for 
peace went on continuously. Conde was imprisoned at 
Chartres, the Constable at Orleans, and transactions for the 
exchange of the prisoners were the easiest part of the business. 
Amid the festivities none knew better than Catherine that 
victory had not brought a solution any nearer, or ameliorated 
the condition of the country. 

" I do not think" (she wrote a httle later) *' that there is any- 
body in this world who feels more misery or cankering care 

222 




Anne ue Montmorency. 

A 
BY JEAN CLOUET. CHAIEAU UE CriANTIl.I.V. 

From a photrigyaph by A. Giraudon, 



n/ 



0/ 



A 



CATHERINE AND THE PRINCE DE CONDE 

at the . . . execrable evils wrought by the mercenaries than 
I, who shall die of it — standing. ... If those who set the 
war going had had the patience to let us complete what we had 
begun at Saint-Germain, we should not be in the straits in 
which we are now about making a good peace — which, after 
all, when it is made, cannot be more advantageous than the 
old Edict of January. ... If things had been worse than they 
are after all this war, they might have blamed the government 
of a woman ; but if they are honest, they should blame nothing 
but the government of the men who want to play the part of 
kings. Henceforward, if I am not further trammelled, I hope 
it will be known that women have a sincerer love for the king- 
dom than those who have plunged it into the state to which 
it is now reduced. And pray show this to all those who talk 
about the matter to you — for this is the truth, pronounced by 
the mother of the King." 

It would have needed a very strong woman to face the 
calamities which overwhelmed France at this moment. The Feb- 
T*uary of 1563 witnessed one of the most dramatic among the 
many tragedies in the history of the Reformation — an episode 
so fatal to the Catholics that their party could hardly recover 
from it. Frangois, Due de Guise, was besieging the suburbs 
of Orleans and lodging in a castle hard by. One evening, 
after making a tour of inspection in the trenches, he was riding 
home to his wife, " having doffed his coat of mail, the which 
he had not done since the opening of the siege," while his page 
walked a few steps in front of him, when a sudden shot from 
behind a hedge felled him, wounded and senseless, to the ground. 
The assassin had time to turn and flee before help was 
fetched by the page, and Guise was borne back to the castle. 
Catherine got the news at Blois and at once bade the Cardinal 
send surgeons. " Although " — ^she writes — *' they have assured 
me that the blow is not fatal, I am, in spite of my joy, so troubled 
that I know not what I do. But I assure you that I would 
give all that I possess in the world to have vengeance, and I 
am certain that God will forgive me." 

Nothing, however, could save the Duke and a few days later 
he died. 

As for the man who had killed him, " God so troubled his 
mind that although he galloped all the night upon his good 
horse and thought that he had made good way, the morning 
found him but one short league from the King's camp, so 
weary . . . that he could go no farther." This assassin, one 

223 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Poltrot de Meray, was duly brought before Catherine and I 
stated that Coligny had hired him for a large sum to do the 
deed ^ — that he had not wished to obey — that de Beze had 
assured him he would win heaven by the murder — that Coligny 
was sending forth emissaries to kill other Catholic leaders — 
that Catherine herself was included and the royal children 
were not safe. The Regent wrote to Coligny, then at Caen, J 
who lost no time in replying and refuting her charges on his I 
honour, article by article. He said that he had twice given 
money to Poltrot, once for a horse, once for some other quite 
unimportant purpose, but never for the reasons averred. It 
was true, he frankly owned, that he had overheard this man 
discussing the assassination of Guise, and although he had 
taken no part in the scheme, he had also done nothing to pre- 
vent it. But he had, in compensation, warned the Duchess- 
more than once of various plots against her husband's life — 
and even that was against his conscience. " For think not, ' 
Madam," he concluded, " that the words which I utter in self- 
defence are said out of any regret for the death of M. de Guise. ^ 
Fortune can deal no better stroke for the good of the kingdom 
and the Church of God, and most especially it is good for 
myself and all my House." He begged the King to delay the 
execution of Poltrot, but Paris- in its fierce Catholicism, had 
by now made an idol of Guise, and the instant punishment of 
the criminal was the only means of staving off riots. 

Long and ceremonious was the lying-in-state of the Duke — 
his gloved hands folded upon his breast ; sumptuous was the 
pomp of burial, and eloquent the Funeral Oration. " Dur 
d la fatigue, d'une grande experience dans la conduite des armees,^^ 
was the verdict of one who did not love him. Whatever 
Catherine's hatred for the tyrant who had subdued her to his 
will, the Due de Guise was a force, and as such the deserted 
Regent missed him. 

" At the very moment " — she wrote to her sister-in-law, the 
Duchess of Savoy — " when I had made everyone good friends 
with me and when every one wished for a happy kingdom, 
God has again seen fit to strike me, and with me this poor 

^ A Catholic writer of the day assures us that Coligny had, before this, 
commissioned Poltrot de Meray to murder Guise, but that Poltrot, after 
following the Duke about for some time, had returned to the Admiral 
and refused to do the job — only yielding to the offer of the large sum 
that his employer offered if he would make another attempt. There 
does not seem to be any foundation for this maUcious story. 

224 



CATHERINE AND THE PRINCE DE CONDE 

country. For by the most miserable of deaths, He has taken 
from me the man who stood out alone and devoted himself 
to the King. ... So that, in sooth, you may see how that 
very virtuous person (the Admiral), who professes to do nothing 
except for the sake of religion, desires to despatch us by its 
means, in spite of which I shall still, try to make a nation. . . . 
But indeed we must face the truth that a heavy loss is ours. 
This gentleman was the greatest captain now existing in our 
realm, and I do not know how affairs will march without him 
if the war is going to last. . . . Meanwhile it is I who will have 
to take command and play the captain, and I leave you to 
imagine how much at my ease I feel." 

The real import of the Duke's murder was not the disappear- 
ance of a military leader. His death had unforeseen results 
in the years that were as yet distant ; it was the terrible 
dragon's tooth- from which a harvest of armed men was to 
spring. For it began that deadly feud between the Guises 
and Coligny which could only be satisfied by blood — which 
ended, nine years later, on the Eve of St. Bartholomew. 

The Duke's last counsel to Catherine had been that she should 
bring about peace. Conde* too, now seemed anxious for it, 
and communications with Him were re-opened. They resulted 
in a- general decision that the two great prisoners, the Prince 
and the Constable, should ineet and discuss the situation. 
The interview took place at Amboise when the spring-time 
of TourainB was just beginning. A pavilioned boat had been 
prepared for the princes on the Loire, and Catherine rowed 
across to it with Conde ; but he preferred to return to land and 
pace the river-bank with the Constable, deep in most earnest 
conversation. For two hours Catherine watched them, as 
she sat at some distance with her train. Next day the con- 
ference was renewed, but it was significant that this time the 
Prince de Conde appeared with his sword — a sign that he was 
no longer a prisoner. On this occasion, too, Catherine was 
allowed to be present. She told- no tales on her return, but 
men augured well of what had happened, for as she went home 
that evening "she laughed loudly for joy and danced with 
the Due d'Aumale," as if she could hardly contain herself 
with triumph at the certainty now hers. For Cond6, tired of 
the war, more tired still perhaps of discussion with the 
two-and-seventy ministers with whom he had been allowed 
to confer at Orleans, at last yielded to her and the Constable. 
Had the Admiral been there, this weakness would never have 

225 Q 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

been allowed ; but Coligny was in Normandy, and though he 
hastened at once to the scene of action, he arrived too late to 
be of use. The peace of Amboise was already signed. Conde 
had had free play and had given away his party altogether. 
f The Treaty permitted the private performance of the 
Protestant service in noble families, but forbade the holding 
of Preches in public, except in the towns which had been 
allowed to hold them before March 7, 1562, and the suburbs 
of one town in every district. These clauses, while they 
flattered the aristocrats, dealt a terrible blow to the popular 
cause of Protestantism, in spite of the suave wording in 
which they were framed. "It was easy to foresee that all must 
go wrong ; that the great lords separated from the life of the 
towns, could henceforth no longer defend themselves, that the 
Papal and Spanish influence would win all along the line." 
Beside such stipulations, the minor articles of this fatal agree- 
ment lose prominence. But they, too, were strokes of 
compromise. Conde, now Catherine's man, was to be Lieutenant- 
General ; foreigners were to leave the country ; there was a 
show of soothing rehgious dissension by the hopes which were 
now held out of a General Council, to be convened in the near 
future. Such a compact could satisfy no one and Condi's 
colleagues were in despair. " Monseigneur," said the Admiral 
sternly, " you have taken upon yourself to play the part 
of God ; with one stroke of your pen you have ruined more 
churches than could have been destroyed in ten years. And 
as for the Noblesse, the only class whose liberty you have 
guaranteed, its members themselves would confess that the 
towns first set them an example. The poor have walked in 
front of the rich and showed them the right road." 

So much for the establishment of home affairs. But a 
Treaty with England was a matter of more protracted nego- 
tiations. Elizabeth could not be brought to terms. She was 
anxious to keep Havre and to regain Calais, while Coligny 
and Conde justly remarked that, as she had espoused the war 
from religious motives and taken Havre in the Protestant 
cause, it would look far from well if she now made a point of 
keeping it for her private profit. Ehzabeth retorted that the 
Huguenots had broken their word to her, and the difficulty 
seemed incapable of solution till the French cut the knot by 
retaking the city of Havre. This was a fresh blow for the 
Protestants, but it was not nearly so disastrous as the Peace of 
Amboise, which reduced Protestantism to a private intrigue 

226 



CATHERINE AND THE PRINCE DE CONDE 

and gave an easy opening to the ever watchful Philip II. 
This much had Catherine brought about by the strength 
of her negative poUcy. " To wish to maintain peace by means 
of division is to try and make white black . . . and the term 
' poHtic ' was invented for those who prefer the repose of the 
kingdom, or their private ease, to the salvation of their souls 
and to religion ; those, in short, who would rather that the 
realm were at peace without God, than at war for Him." So 
comments the marksman, Tavannes, who always hits the eye 
of the target, and there could be no completer summing up 
of the philosophy of Catherine de' Medici. 



227 



CHAPTER XI 

Why the Reformation failed in France 



229 



CHAPTER XI 
Why the Reformation failed in France 

THAT the Reformation struck root in England and Ger- 
many, while it found no lasting home in Italy or in 
France, is a fact that gives material for reflection. General- 
izations are dangerous, but this much may perhaps safely be 
hazarded : the people of Italy and France were more or less 
materiaUsts by nature ; the Italians of the Renaissance, 
easy-going, beauty-loving, seeking after new things, subject 
to the first enchantment of the classic revival, were thoroughly 
Pagan. It was this Pagan atmosphere which made possible 
such persons as the Borgias and the Medici, such Popes as Leo X, 
JuHus II, Clement VII ; and it was not, as has often been 
thought, the persons who produced the atmosphere. They 
doubtless reacted on their evil surroundings, but they were 
never the cause of the malady. In such a soil as this it was 
impossible for Protestantism to grow, impossible, indeed, for 
any rehgion, except one of mere observance, to live. The 
favourite quality of the Renaissance was good taste, that of 
the Reformation was energy acting upon conviction, but 
energy and taste are often at variance and Luther had nothing 
to say to aesthetics. 

If the School of the Reconcilers, of those who wished to 
reform the Church already there — the School of Erasmus and 
his followers — had been strong enough to serve the moment, 
its suave wisdom and scholarly irony might have produced a 
large following. The Hghts of the Broad Church — such as 
Cardinal Pole in his earlier days, the poetic Vittoria Colonna, 
the scientific lecturer, Olympia Morata, or the beautiful ladies, 
Isabella of Ischia and Giulia Gonzaga — made centres of spiritual 
life which became the source of real influence. But for them 
and their kind the day was past, and the new wine was too 
strong for the old bottles. The other form of mysticism 
which found a response in Italy was the strange Neo-Platonism, 
the garbled and emotional philosophy which grew to be so 

231 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

prevalent among cultivated Italians and resulted from the re- 
discovery of Plato. His new expounders, Marsilio Ficino and 
Pico della Mirandola, were earnest, high-souled men who made 
(to use Picino's words) " a misty effort to set forth the image 
of Plato as closely resembling the truth of Christ " — and their 
message found many to receive it, embodying, as it did, the 
search after unity which was the favourite theory of the Re- 
naissance. But the Platonic creed, like the Broad Church 
tenets of Erasmus, represented the beliefs of the cultured class, 
not of the nation at large ; and they rotted or snapped like 
thin planks, destroyed by the forces of Paganism. Meanwhile 
the real outbursts of Protestantism in Italy were isolated and 
resulted in no school. The men who made them, from Savon- 
' arola downwards, were protestors against things as they were, 
, rather than initiators of something that was to be. There 
were certain cities — Lucca, Naples, Ferrara — that were the 
citadels of heterodoxy ; there were glowing preachers of the 
New Opinions, like that interesting man, Fra Ochino of Siena, 
or his friend, Peter Martyr Vermigli who came to the Council 
of Poissy ; there were the enthusiasts — Flaminio, the friend 
of Cardinal Pole, and that fine spirit, Carnesechi, who was 
burnt for his convictions — but none of these were strong 
enough to make a general movement, nor could they have 
found sufficient numbers to lead forth into the field. What 
ought to have been an army resolved itself into scattered 
groups that clustered round some central figure, and the facts 
of history bore out the saying that " You might be able to de- 
Christianize Italy, but you could never Calvinize it." 

In France, where the Reformation movement assumed such 
large proportions, where it filled men's thoughts for so long 
and produced such conspicuous results, where every woman 
of importance, from Margaret of Angouleme downwards, was 
occupied with the new religion — either as friend or foe — 
the failure of Protestantism is more striking than it was in 
Italy. But the main reason was the same in both countries and 
I lay in the national character. If the Itahans were bom 
Pagans, the French were born Sceptics, and the sceptical 
temperament was as unfriendly to the growth of Protestant- 
ism as the easy materialism of Rome. For the sceptical tem- 
perament is the practical temperament — the temperament of 
common-sense— unmitigated by imagination — which clings to the 
present and the attainable and cares little for big vistas. It 
produced practical women, not romantic ones ; and practical 

232 



WHY REFORMATION FAILED IN FRANCE 

women demand action, the need to move in affairs, they soon 
develop into political women. The only poUtics possible for 
the women of the sixteenth century were provided by reUgion, 
and it was to religion, therefore, that these powerful ladies 
turned as an outlet for their energies. Many of them, like 
Jeanne de Navarre, were theologians. But theologians live by 
logic — by the practical temperament applied to ideas — and 
theology gave these feminine Calvinists a new field for their 
natural abilities. They were literal, and they made for absolute 
conclusions and the neatest fitting in of beliefs, nor did they 
care to leave room for the spiritual imagination. The preoccu- 
pation of Frenchwomen with religious affairs cannot therefore 
be taken as evidence of the religious nature of the people, and 
the truth remains that then — and since — France has not 
been a pious country. 

But it has been the country of decorum, and in no other 
land has religious etiquette been made into such a fine art. 
It is, at first sight, hard to understand why so unmystical a 
nation as the French should have kept such a markedly 
rituaUstic faith as that of Roman Catholicism. But they have 
kept it just because it need only be a matter of ritual and 
observance ; for the sceptical temperament likes the decency I 
of form and the restraint of a conventional creed. There were, 
of course, exceptional people who reacted against this artificial 
code : the choice race of saintly spirits to whom we have 
already alluded, the devout thinkers and scholars whose names 
are the world's property. But in discussing the character 
of a nation the question is, not whether it possesses these 
personalities, but how much it has been affected by them, 
and when we come to France, we shall find that their influ- 
ence had no permanence. There are other fervent characters, 
too, to be found in the annals of French history ; votaries of 
strange and spasmodic doctrines — Returns to Nature, Worship 
of Humanity, Universal Health (as in the time of Mesmer) 
and the like — superstitions which from time to time have 
taken hold of the French people. Such superstitions have 
always been a transitory refuge for matter-of-fact races — 
whether the French of the past or the Americans of to-day — 
who do not possess the touchstone of true religious imagina- 
tion. But transitory they remain, and the real conviction 
of France is not represented by these, but by the Court religion 
of a Guise or of a Richelieu, and, if we desire a later in- 
stance, by the Concordat of Napoleon. The inability of the 

233 



./ 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Huguenots to gain their country might well have been a fore- 
gone conclusion. 

It is common to ascribe such disasters to individuals ; to 
say that Alexander VI and his successors killed Protestantism 
in Italy, that Catherine de' Medici and the Guises destroyed 
it in France. But these people are the tools of Fate, not its 
creators ; they are the result of their age and by no means 
responsible for it. It is true that Catherine, half French, 
half Italian, half Pagan, half Sceptic, was the worst person 
for her place ; but truth is stronger than persons, and though 
individuals can accelerate or impede its progress, they have 
no power to destroy it. Had the horrors of St. Bartholomew's 
Eve really put an end to Protestantism, we should have had 
sufficient proof that the principle of life was not in it. Had 
Catherine never existed, the massacre never happened, the 
conclusion would be the same and the Huguenots would still 
stand defeated. 

Other minor causes there are which, if they did not give 
rise, at least contributed to the failure. There was no union 
among the Protestants. Old Tavannes observes that if the 
Constable, the Bourbons, and the Chatillons could but have 
remained at one, they would have made front against the 
Guises and would have probably carried the day. They 
did not accomplish this, and the reason Ues again in French 
character. For France is always personal. The French 
Revolution destroyed itself by disputes between individuals ; 
by breaking up into groups which circled round some single 
figure. And this is precisely what happened in the case of 
the French Reformation. Here we have a Prince de Conde, 
who exercises a personal spell and makes his party depend upon 
his private relations with Catherine and upon his boundless 
ambition for himself ; there we find Antoine de Navarre, who 
shapes his shifting poUcy merely upon self-indulgence ; or, 
in the earlier days, the Constable, who fights for his own hand. 
And in the midst of these faction-mongers stands great 
Coligny — "the man of bronze" — as much hampered in his 
"^ngle-minded aim by the selfish desires of his colleagues as he 
was by the wiles of his opponents. 

This state of affairs was largely due to the constitution of 
France, to a government which admitted so many Kings in 
one kingdom. On the one hand were the reigning Guises, 
much wealthier than the Regent and her son ; on the other, 
were the King of Navarre, and Conde who was trying to be 

234 



I 



WHY REFORMATION FAILED IN FRANCE 

King ; and the Constable who meant to depose the Guises, ^ 
till he found out that he could not and went over to them. / 
So many big powers could not Hve side by side and co-operate. 
They made unity impossible ; they prevented a concentrated 
policy ; but they tied the hands of their General so that effectual 
action became impracticable. For if the Protestants lacked 
a closely-knitted party, they also lacked that other necessity — 
one leader to dominate the rest. The conditions that we have 
been reviewing seem to make his existence hardly possible. 
His road would certainly have been beset with difficulties 
which genius alone could overcome. But Coligny was not a 
genius. He was strong — he was not originative ; and the 
man who was needed at that moment was a being of creative 
force, an innovator — not only a high-souled hero of great 
military talent. And while Coligny was insufficient for the 
post, the other person who might have led forth the Huguenots 
was a woman — Jeanne de Navarre — whose sex stood in the 
way of her success. 

But if the leaders are important, no less so are those who 
are led. " I do not know what to call Vetat Huguenot'' writes 
a contemporary : "it is not entirely popular, not entirely 
aristocratic ... It is a democracy garbled by aristocracy, 
a republic in a monarchy . . . and the Huguenot aristocracy 
was backed by the Queen until the Council of Poissy." This 
is an interesting summary of what had been — what was still — 
in its essence a democratic movement. And the commentator 
partly hits the truth, for there had been throughout its course 
an effort to unite two incongruous powers. The attempt had 
begun in the days when Marguerite d'Angouleme tried to 
convert her Court ; when her director. Bishop Brigonnet, 
made that society of mystics at Meaux of which she and her 
friends formed the upper, and the Protestant weavers the 
lower end. 

Unfortunately these extremes remained apart, impotent 
because of their isolation — all for want of a fusing element. \ 
For France possessed no real middle-class, the class which 
mediates and disseminates ; and the lack of this " entre-deux " 
had a great deal to do with the failure of the new doctrines. 
Such a statement must needs be relative. We use the 
word " middle-class " in its largest sense, as meaning that 
division of a ncrtion which includes the lowest of the higher, 
and the highest of the lower circles and thus Hnks the noble 
to the artizan. England and Germany, each in its own 

235 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

measure, possessed this advantage, but in France the case was 
different. There was a middle-class in the literal sense of 
the term, a growing Third Estate made up of well-to-do bour- 
geois. But it can hardly be said to have consisted of more 
than one " order," for it was rather the superior artificers 
than the artizans that had access to it — men who merged with 
the artists, with the architects, the painters and the sculptors. 
For the rest it was mainly constituted out of merchants, 
doctors, lawyers, citizens, with a sprinkling of writers and 
poets, who were dependent on the Court or on great patrons. 
Many of these people, especially the merchants, made fortunes 
and rose into the aristocratic circles, often through financing 
King and nobles. But though this made a bond betwixt 
Court and bourgeois, it had no effect on the masses, who re- 
mained as much disconnected with the noblesse as if no 
third " order " had existed ; and though the Reformation 
doctrines, which were first received by the Court and by the 
poor, were gradually taken up by the educated citizens, this 
had no effect on the other classes. 

When the people are led by one of themselves, anarchy is 
likely to ensue, as it did in the French Revolution ; when they 
are led by aristocratic leaders, as they were in the French 
Reformation, the movement is apt to end in incoherence. 
The old feudal relations assert themselves, and the difference 
of rank is too great to allow of any real tie between the 
captains and their followers ; for the chiefs, though they 
may fight for truth and hberty, are not fighting for the needs 
of the people, which they neither know nor understand. That 
people demands a leader above it, but not far above it. Luther, 
Zwinglius, John Knox, Oliver Cromwell, were all men of the 
middle-class, who fully grasped the wants of the populace 
whom they represented. 

Moreover, the rehgion of the cultivated classes can never 
be the religion of the people, or the rehgion which directs a 
revolution. Refinement, thought, and love of learning 
educate, but are not originative. Yet in France, as in Italy, 
it was the Broad Church of the Reconcilers which proved the 
best one. The finest spirits belonged to it and it included, at 
first, both the " Catholiques ebr antes " (as a contemporary 
called them), and the men who afterwards went forth and 
formed a body of their own. It is difficult for us to remember 
that these Dissenters, whom we think of as being always the 
conscious creators of a new religion, began with no notion of 

236 



WHY REFORMATION FAILED IN FRANCE 

separation and only desired to introduce certain changes and 
hold certain advanced behefs within the pale. They were 
much in the same position as the extreme Broad Churchmen 
of our day who still find it possible to remain in the Church of 
England. But when the Reformers realized that the accus- 
tomed forms were incapable of holding their doctrines, they 
saw themselves obliged to leave the fold and found a Church 
for themselves, thus greatly diminishing the vitality of the 
party they had abandoned. It was a party which was by no 
means strong enough to prevail at this critical moment, but 
if it could but have triumphed, the French might have been 
a very different nation. 

The " ifs " of history, however idle a theme for contempla- 
tion, provide us with fascinating problems. Perhaps one of 
the most interesting is the question as to what France would 
have become had Catherine been a whole-hearted Huguenot 
and possessed the courage of her opinions. Spain, allied to 
the Guises, would almost certainly have made war on her, 
while she, helped by England, Holland and the Protestant 
Princes of Germany, could have made a strong resistance. 
Even if the Reformed faith had found no permanent footing, 
the history of France would have been nobler, the good effect 
upon its moral sense enduring. But Catherine was devoid of 
sincerity and our shadowy wonderings are vain. 

After the Peace of Amboise, another chapter in her Hfe 
begins. The terrible war had borne in upon her the whole 
^ political import of her Protestant tendencies and all the risks 
that they involved. She deliberately assumed a new part, 
and thenceforward, with few variations and in spite of under- 
hand transactions, appeared upon the stage as the avowed 
enemy of the Huguenots. Every now and then an act of indul- 
gence towards them proved that her inclination for their 
tenets retained its old vitahty. But poUtics demanded a 
change of front, and from this time onwards she treated them 
as rebels. To Catherine, the friend of the Reformers, the 
leader of the Council of Poissy, we say farewell in 1562. 



237 



XHAPTER XII 

Ronsard and the Pleiade 



239 



AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 

Vie de Ronsard — Claude Binet. 

Biographical Introduction to Oeuvres de Ronsard — Blanchemain, 

Biographical Introduction to Oeuvres Choisies de Ronsard — Sainte- 

Beuve. 
Biographical Introduction to Oeuvres de Joachim Du Bellay — Marty- 

Laveaux. 
Biographical Introduction to Oeuvres Choisies de Joachim Du Bellay 

— Becq de Fouquidres. 
Tableau du seizieme siecle — Sainte-Beuve. 
Causeries du lundi — Sainte-Beuve. 

Manuel de I'histoire de la litterature Fran^aise — Brunetiire 
L'Art Poetique — Ronsard. 
Oeuvres Po^tiques de Ronsard. 

Illustration de la Poesie Fran9aise — Joachim Du Bellay. 
Oeuvres Poetiques de Joachim Du Bellay. 
Lettres au Cardinal Du Bellay, etc. — Joachim Du Bellay 
Podmes de Charles IX. 
Histoire de France — Michelet. 
Histoire de France — Martin. 



240 



CHAPTER XII 

Ronsard and the Pleiade 

THE great French literary movement between 1550 and 
1580 — the movement created by the Poets of the 
Pleiade — was practically imaffected by the Reformation. 
Ronsard, Du Bellay and their colleagues were the children of 
the Renaissance alone, and in France the Renaissance of Letters 
and the Reformation ran, as it were, on parallel hnes : both in 
one direction, towards freedom — ever alongside, never meet- 
ing. In England the case was very different. You can hardly 
open a book of EHzabethan poetry without perceiving the 
signs of an intense religious activity. If we compare the work 
of Ronsard, Du Bellay and the lesser Hghts, with that of Spenser, 
Sidney, Raleigh, Campion, Shirley, Drummond of Haw- 
thornden, the difference at once becomes apparent. It is not 
a matter of the creed professed by the men of either nation- 
ality. Ronsard wrote in defence of the Papacy, and both he 
and Du Bellay were orthodox Cathohcs under Court patron- 
age ; few of the EngHsh poets were men of Protestant 
tendencies. But in the one case, the spirit of poetry was 
Pagan, in the other instinct with spiritual fervour. Listen 
to Ronsard himself on the new faith, in a poem dedicated to 
Catherine de' Medici — 

On dit que Jupiter, fache centre la race 

Des hommes, qui voulaient par curieuse audace 

Envoy er leur raisons jusqu'au ciel, pour savoir 

Les hauts secrets divins que Thomme ne doit voir, 

Un jour etant gaillard, choisit pour son amie 

Dame Presomption, la voyant endormie 

Au pied du mont Olympe ; et la baisant soudain 

Con9ut rOpinion, peste du genre humain . . 

De Beze, je te prie, ecoute ma parole, 

Que tu estimeras d'une personne folle, 

S'il te plait toutes fois de juger sainement 

Apres m'avoir oui, tu diras autrement, . . . 

. . . Ne preche plus en France une Evangile armee, 

Un Christ empistole tout noirci de fumee . . . 

241 R 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Certes il vaudrait mieux a Lausanne relire 
Du grand fils de Thetis les promesses et I'ire, 
Faire combat tre Ajax, faire parler Nestor, 
Ou reblesser Venus, ou retuer Hector . . . 
Certes il vaudrait mieux celebrer ta Candide, 
Et, comma tu faisais, tenir encore la bride 
Des cygnes Paphians, ou pr6s d'un antre au soir 
Tout seul dans le giron des neuf Muses t'asseoir. 
Que reprendre I'Eglise, ou pour dtre vu sage, 
Amender en St. Paul je ne sais quel passage. 
De Beze, mon ami, tout cela ne vaut pas 
Que la France pour toi fasse tant de combats, 
Ni qu'un Prince royal pour ta cause t'empeche. 

Nothing can be more conventional than the religious phrases 
of this passage — nothing more full of enjoyment than the 
recommendation to retire to a cave and read mythology. 

The very aims of the Pleiade made against fervour. " With- 
out eloquence," writes Joachim du Bellay, " all things are 
futile, like a blade always covered by its scabbard ; without 
metaphors, allegories, similes and many other figures and 
ornaments, both oratory and poetry remain naked and weak." 
This occurs in his " Illustration de la langue francaise," which 
was, as it were, the manifesto of the Pleiade, and he goes on 
to speak of the Romans. " The noblest work of their State," 
says he, " even that of the days of Augustus — even their 
Capitol and their Thermae — could not hold out against the 
blows of Time without the aid of their language, for the 
which alone we praise, we admire, we adore them. Are we 
then less than Greeks or Romans that we make so little of 
our own tongue ? . . . Why are we thus hostile to ourselves ? 
Why do we use foreign languages as if we w^ere ashamed of our 
own ? . . . True it is that the wide plains of Greece and Rome 
are already so full that Httle empty space is left. But, great God, 
what an infinity of sea there still remains before we can anchor 
in port ! . . . And now, supposing us, thanks be to Him, safe 
at last in our haven, many perils passed, many strange waters 
left behind us. We have escaped out of the midst of the 
Greeks and with the help of the Roman squadrons we have 
penetrated into the very heart of this long desired France. 
March then, courageously, ye Frenchmen, towards that superb 
Roman city . . . yield yourselves to this fictitious Greece 
and sow there, I pray ye, a fresh crop — the famous race of 
the Gallo-Greeks. Pillage without conscience the sacred 
treasures of the Delphic Temple . . . and do not fear the 
dumb Apollo, his false Oracles, his blunted arrows." 

242 



RONSARD AND THE PLElADE 

The passion for form which, from Ronsard to Verlaine, has char- 
acterized the French, the pursuit of the right word which 
has distinguished them, are not wanting here. But the 
language was in the making, and it was with that language, 
as yet so incomplete, that the Pleiade were concerned, not with 
the expression of ideas. They were still fashioning their 
crystal goblet, nor did they care about the wine which it was 
not yet fit to hold. But in England this was not so. The 
EngHsh tongue was already a complete and richly wrought 
vessel, finished yet flexible, so that men were free to use it 
first and foremost as a vehicle for thought and feeling. English 
words, as has been truly said, " still had the dew upon them," 
and there arose a great unconscious poetry, in which beauty 
of form and beauty of idea became one, each intensifying 
and inseparable from the other. Yet there was always a cen- 
tral conception which had a life apart from language and gave 
the language its vitahty. Thus while in England thought 
grew spontaneously out of language, language out of thought, 
and art was large and natural, in France it was from the first 
elaborate — the expression of a love of form for form's sake — 
and language grew artificially out of the ingenuity of men. 

Before considering in this light some of the poems of either 
country, it will be well to know a Httle more about the two 
French poets who so powerfully affected their day — the two 
chief stars of the briUiant Pleiade which they created. 

The youth of Pierre de Ronsard and Joachim du Bellay 
belongs to the reign of Frangois I and has been chronicled in 
another volume.^ It will therefore be unnecessary to give 
more than the briefest summary of the early life of both men, 
only just so much as will help to the understanding of their later 
careers. Both were aristocratic — both driven to the study 
of the classics by physical infirmity — both, curiously enough, 
were deaf, and wrote sonnets to one another's deafness. 

Pierre de Ronsard was born in the Vendomois in 1524. 
He was, as his accurate historian tells us, seventeenth cousin 
to Queen EHzabeth, who sent him a diamond ring as a symbol 
of his briUiant and indestructible poetry. He himself, in an 
autobiographical poem, retraces his family to Thrace and the 
banks of the Danube — not perhaps without some private com- 
parison of himself to the other lyrist, Orpheus — and the Marquis 
of Thrace was the elegant nickname which his contemporaries 
loved to give him : a nickname in no way unworthy of the 
^'* Women and Men of the French Renaissance." 
243 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

pseudo-classics of the future, so much cultivated at the Hotel 
Rambouillet. The boy went to school at nine years old, but 
he did not like it and left it for good in a year. His father had 
accompanied the little sons of Fran9ois I when they went as 
hostages to Spain and, perhaps in consequence of this, his 
Pierre, at ten years old, was made page to the Duke of Orleans. 
Yoimg Ronsard went twice to Scotland, and spent six months 
in England. The first time he crossed the sea, it was as the 
page of the Scotch King, James V ; that monarch had just 
married Henri II's daughter, the Princess Madeleine, whose 
piteous death in the arms of her young husband the lad wit- 
nessed not long afterwards. When he came back, he resumed 
his post at the French Court. It was after his second return, 
when he was about fifteen, that there occurred the great event 
of his life ; he fell in with Virgil. One day — probably in the 
royal stables where his work lay — he met a Court groom, a 
groom of the Renaissance, reading a little gold-tooled volume, 
and thenceforward he made Virgil his own. He had found a 
friend in Olympus ; he studied him at every spare moment, 
all other pleasures became distasteful to him ; and what makes 
both Ronsard and his literary attempt really interesting is 
the fact that it was founded on this natural affinity and upon 
no forced revival. Soon after this, emancipated from the 
state of servitude, he started for the Diet of Speyer, in com- 
pany with the learned Maitre des Requetes, Lazare Baif, 
and later he went to Piedmont with the famous Guillaume 
du Bellay. When he came back he followed the Court to 
Blois, and there he met with his first love — the first among 
many — Cassandre, to whom for ten years he wrote several scores 
of odes and sonnets. About this time, too, when he was some 
seventeen years old, he was first attacked by the deafness 
which never left him, and this — perhaps also his tender passion 
— disgusted him with Court life. After much discussion, he 
persuaded his father to allow him to desert " les armes " and 
take to letters in good earnest, but his request was only granted 
on condition that he should never become a poet, or be found 
with a French book in his hand. It was lucky that his father 
died soon afterwards and that Ronsard had no objections to 
forswearing himself — " For in sooth " (as his friend and historian 
says), " a spirit such as his, which from its birth had received 
the infusion — the fatal impress — of poesy, could not be turned 
from its course, or bound by other laws than its own." 
He now returned to Paris and, crossing the Seine from Les 

244 



RONSARD AND THE PLElADE 

Tournelles, took up his abode in the house of Baif and studied 
Greek there with his son, Jean Antoine. Under this roof, too, 
he found the man who was to stamp his whole career, Jean 
Dorat, a pedagogue poet of the old school and a scholar of the 
new, absorbed in developing an original system of classical 
education. " By him was Ronsard bewitched with the philtre 
of noble Hterature," and, quick to discover his pupil's gifts, 
he invited the boy to come and join him at his recently started 
College de Coqueret. Here, for seven years, he steeped him in 
the knowledge of the classics — him and the chosen few whom 
Dorat adopted as his pupils. Young Baif followed his beloved 
Ronsard thither and shared his room, helping him with Greek, 
in exchange for Latin lessons. The two friends worked in turn 
all night, for they could only afford one candle, and when 
Ronsard had had his half of the precious hours, Baif would rise 
from bed and the fellow students changed places, " nor did 
they ever allow the chair to grow cold." Remy Belleau was 
another of the scholars — the comrade to whom in after days 
Ronsard sang that the years 

Ne celent ^ que Belleau et Ronsard n'etaient qu'un 
Et que tous deux avaient un meme coeur commun. 

Dorat taught his eager disciples to imitate Horace and 
Pindar, to act Aristophanes, to plunge into the deeps of philo- 
sophy. He read the " Prometheus " of ^Eschylus in a French 
translation with Ronsard— " all at one full flight." "Oh, 
master," said the poet, " why have you hidden these riches 
from me so long ? " These revelations had a strong effect upon 
him. Gradually " he began to ponder upon great designs 
for leading his language out of childhood," and a band of his 
colleagues gathered round him. It was at this time, about the 
year 1548 or 1549, that Ronsard, returning from a journey, met 
a chance traveller in a wayside tavern — a young lawyer who 
had come from the Legal School of Poitiers. They drank wine 
together ; some casual remark made them enter into conversa- 
tion, and perhaps the lawyer was charmed by the golden- 
haired French Apollo. The talk fell on letters and on poetry, 
and before they mounted their horses, the stranger, Joachim 
du Bellay, had thrown up the law and agreed to live with 
Ronsard. He was to return with him at once to Paris and 
take up his abode at the College, so that without delay they 
might pursue their aims together. For Du Bellay was also a poet 

^ Do not hide. 
245 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

and, in his studious solitude, he had all this time been matur- 
ing much the same ideas about poetry as Ronsard in his dis- 
tant College — in the leisure forced upon him by illness, which 
laid him ;by, poor and lonely, " nailed (as he said) to a bed of 
pain " for two long years of his youth. 

Joachim du Bellay was born a year after Ronsard, in 1525, 
on the family estate, at the Angevin town of Lire. His 
parents, who were related to the great Du Bellays, died 
early and he was left in the tutelage of a harsh brother, who 
opposed his inclination for letters and brought him up roughly 
as a soldier. " Cultivation" (he wrote) "was not forme. . . . 
I was like a flower in a green garden which no ripple refreshes 
and no hand cherishes.'* The brother, too, died, and left an 
embarrassed estate and the care of his son to Joachim, himself 
little more than a boy. Poverty and domestic cares formed 
fresh barriers in his way and he had no time for hterature. His 
illness followed and the skies cleared ; he was helped by his 
kinsman, the literary Cardinal du Bellay, was sent to take up 
law at Poitiers, and met his fate by the wayside. 

Both men agreed that the French language Was poverty- 
stricken, that the way to enrich it was to use it and to sub- 
stitute it for Latin — the common medium of literature. To 
write in French was, they saw rightly, the one essential con- 
dition of a great French literature, and in order to do this they 
must improve the' instrument, they must invent and import 
new words. They borrowed largely from Greek and Latin ; 
they consorted with craftsmen of all sorts so that they might 
discover unknown terms ; they dived into the provincial 
patois and brought forth long-forgotten substantives. " You 
must know" — Ronsard writes to his disciples — "how to choose 
and adapt to your work the most significant words from the 
dialects of our France ; and you must not care whether the 
vowels are Gascon, Poitevin, Norman, or Lyonnais, provided 
they are good and appropriate to your meaning. Nor niust 
you too much affect the speech of the Court, the which is 
sometimes very bad, for that it is the language of fine ladies 
and young gentlemen. And note that the Greek tongue would 
never have been so fertile and abundant in dialects and words, 
without the large number of republics that flourished in that 
day. There is, in sooth, no doubt that if France still boasted 
Dukes of Burgundy, of Picardy, of Normandy, of Brittany, 
of Champagne, of Gascony, they, of their nobiUty, would cer- 
tainly desire their subjects to write in their native language." 

246 



RONSARD AND THE PLElADE 

The result of all this verbal research was naturally a good 
deal of affectation and a kind of earnest euphuism, but their 
practical treatment of their mother-tongue is difficult to over- 
value. The only poets who had hitherto used it freely were 
those of the National, or Country School, the enemies of the 
classical spirit, led by Clement Marot and Melin Saint-Gelais. 
But they were far too crude and informal for the innovators. 
What the Pleiade demanded was polish, precision, a form like 
a clean-cut intaglio. They introduced classical metres, they 
imitated Anacreon and Horace ; they may almost be said to 
have created the quality of delicacy in French poetry. Around 
them, in a short time, there clustered those minor constellations 
who, with them, made up the Pleiade — so called after a group 
of seven Greek poets under the Ptolemies. Besides Belleau 
and Baif, there were Amadis Jamyn, Ronsard's page (" who 
was also his page in poetry"), and Etienne Jodelle, lyrist and 
playwright, and Pontus de Thiard, the Bishop of Chalons — 
or, for a variant on these last, Scevole de Sainte-Marthe and 
Muret. The Pleiade threw down the gauntlet in 1550, when 
Joachim du Bella}' published his ** Illustration de la Langue 
francaise," which set forth their tenets to the world. But 
although Du Bellay was the mouth-piece — although he was 
also practically the pioneer of the sonnet in France — Ronsard, 
as Sainte-Beuve points out, ever remained the leader. 

Amy que sans tache d'envie 

J'aimais quand je vivais comme ma propre vie, 

Qui premier me poussa et me forma la voie — 

So the confident Ronsard makes Joachim address him in a 
poem written after his friend's death, and his voice was the 
voice of Du Bellay. 

The appearance of the *' Illustration " brought a hornet's nest 
about their ears and Ronsard's first volume of verse, which 
came out a year later, did not soothe public opinion. The 
old school of national poets, with MeHn Saint-Gelais at their 
head, rose angrily and jeered ; the courtiers read the book 
aloud in parodying tones to the King, purposely misrepresent- 
ing the newly-invented words. Ronsard wished in vain that 
he had lived in the days of the lettered Frangois I. But he 
and his comrades found a champion in the noble-minded 
Michel de I'Hopital, still at that early date the right hand of 
Madame Marguerite, the sister of Henri II. He wrote a 
learned satire in their favour and filled the ears of his mistress 

247 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

with their praises. From this time onwards, the Princess was 
their tutelary spirit, their " Perle des perles \la plus clairCy^ 
their " Ame hospitaliere des Muses.'''' Joachim du Bellay's 
sentiment for her began by being a mere Court convention, but 
later it deepened into something more — a real and tender 
feeling for the woman who had held out a hand to him ; and her 
departure from France at her marriage, and his grief when he 
failed to bid her farewell and to look on her face once again drew 
from him, so he tells us, " les plus vraies larmes que je pleural 
jamais," and added another touch of sadness to his last suffer- 
ing days. This lady was the least interesting of the three 
Marguerites de Valois. She was Httle more than the niece 
of her aunt. Marguerite d'Angouleme, or rather she tried to 
take her place ; and though she was inferior, and consider- 
ably more of a blue-stocking, she had great literary influence 
in her day. Corneille de Lyon's portrait of her at Chantilly 
shows her just as she was — a singular mixture of kindness 
and pedantry — a trim, befurred little figure in a small hunting- 
cap with a fountain-like aigrette perched on one side of her 
golden peruke — the modish Muse of the Pleiade. They wrote 
her a great many poems and she answered them in rather 
stilted verses which they were never tired of extoUing. In 
return, she did them solid service by spreading their reputation. 
Ronsard became literary tutor to the little Scotch Queen, 
Mary Stuart. He gave her, like the rest of the Court, a poetic 
devotion, which she answered with romantic friendship ; when 
she left France, his heart was broken — for some days — nor 
did she forget him in Scotland. She sent him in after years 
a noble sum of money, besides another costly trifle — a precious 
" Buffet,^' surmounted by Parnassus with Pegasus at the top. 
When her fate became sombre, his poetry cheered her im- 
prisonment ; but she did not go so far as Chatelard, who, at 
the last solemn hour, brought out his volume of Ronsard 
and read the " Hymne a la Mort " — a lucid, philosophic 
eulogy of Death, the deliverer from human misery — chilly 
comfort, so it seems to us, for such a moment. 

Meanwhile, Charles IX had come to the throne of France 
and he took such an affection for Ronsard that he could hardly 
do without him, so that " Mon Ronsard," as he called him, 
seldom left the Court. From the time the King was fourteen 
years old, he wrote verses to the poet, adoring his Muse, longing 
for his intellect, vaunting the royalty of poetry when put beside 
the royalty of thrones. 

248 



RONSARD AND THE PLElADE 

Tous deux egalement nous portons des couronnes ; 

Mais, roi, je la regus ; poete, tu la donnes : 

Ta lyre, qui ravit par de si doux accords, 

Te soumet les esprits, dont je n'ai que les corps ; 

Elle amoUit les coeurs et soumet la beaute. 

Je puis donner la mort, toi rimmortalite. 

Charles IX had inherited his father's poetic gift, though he 
did not trust it far. He was unhke most kings in under- 
rating his pretty talent, and when first he had a tender passion 
for the Court lady. Mademoiselle d'Atrie, he used to employ 
Ronsard to write love-poems for him. Ronsard's success in 
this vicarious wooing did not diminish his prestige in royal 
circles. Catherine lavished favours upon him, and, for his 
sake, quarrelled with her favourite architect, Philibert de 
rOrme — scolding him in public for his spite in shutting the 
Tuileries one day against the mocking Ronsard, who wrote a 
biting epigram on the offending door. De TOrme was no 
match for Ronsard's irony or for his social success. He had 
grown rich as well as powerful. Fat abbeys were conferred 
upon him, according to the fashion of the day, though, as he 
himself assures us,^ he was never ordained as a priest. He 
wrote in defence of the Faith, and Pope Pius V sent him a 
formal letter of thanks ; while the Huguenots made him still 
more popular by printing wordy pages against him. The 
Cardinal de Lorraine and the Cardinal de Chatillon were his 
friends, so was the Cardinal du Bellay. The great world 
was at his feet, and the world of letters followed ; for a versifier, 
one Guillaume d'Autels, a friend of both factions among the 
poets, acted as mediator between him and Saint-Gelais and 
healed the quarrel between them. They wrote each other 
elegant sonnets to assure the world of their mutual love, and 
now all the singers, both of the old school and the new, with 
a remarkable absence of jealousy, were added to Ronsard's 
admirers. Jean Goujon ^ carved Fame upon the Louvre 
blowing a trumpet in the great man's honour ; and the Court 
of Love at Toulouse, which awarded three prizes — a branch of 
eglantine, a daisy and a violet — to the three best poets that 
presented themselves, outdid themselves in his praise and 
sent him a silver Minerva. Never did prophet enjoy greater 
honour in his own country ; indeed he was over-lauded, and 

1 Du Bellay 's ** Louange de la France." 

^ Binet, in his ''Vie de Ronsard" speaks of Lescot as having carved 
this figure. But Lescot was the architect of the Louvre, and employed 
Goujon to do all the sculpture. 

249 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

the men of a later time could hardly see his achievement for his 
laurels. 

Yet, though he loved elegance, his tastes always remained 
simple. He himself has described his ordinary day with the 
candid grace which distinguished him. 

Apres je sors du lit, et quand je suis vetu, 

Je me range a Tetude et apprends la vertu — 

Composant et lisant, suivant ma destinee 

Qui s'est dds mon enfance aux Muses enclinee : 

Quatre ou cinq heures seul je m'arrete enferme, 

Puis sentant mon esprit de trop lire assomme, 

J'abandonne le livre et m'en vais a I'Eglise. 

Au retour, pour plaisir, une heure je devise ; 

De la je viens diner, faisant sobre repas. 

Je rends graces a Dieu ; au reste je m'ebas,^ 

. . . Mais quand le ciel est triste et tout noir d'epaisseur 

Et qu'il ne fait aux champs ni plaisant, ni bien sur, 

Je cherche compagnie ou je joue a la Prime ; 

Je voltige ou je saute, ou je lutte, ou j'escrime ; 

Je dis le mot pour rire, et a la verite, 

Je ne loge chez moi trop de severite. . . . 

Au reste je ne suis ni mutin, ni mechant, 

Qui^ fait croire ma loi par le glaive tranchant : 

Voila comme je vis, et si ta vie est meilleure, 

Je n'en suis envieux, et soit a la bonne heure ! 

His favourite home was in the country, either at his Priory 
of St. Cosme — Pceillet de Touraine — where Catherine and her 
sons visited him ; or at Bourgueuil, where he kept his " finest 
hawks " and the hounds which Charles had given him, for 
hunting was one of his chief pleasures. Or, if he liked anything 
better, it was to go to his other Priory of Croixval and wander 
on the banks of the Loire, or in the solitary Forest of Gastine. 
Here he would lie on the brim of the Fontaine d'Helene, which 
had power to quench the thirst of poets, and think of the 
nymph, his mistress, who bore the same name as the spring ; 
or he would listen to the cool splash of the other forest fountain 
of Bellerie, " oftentimes alone, but ever in the company of the 
Muses." And sometimes he had a companion — 

lya devisant sur I'herbe avec un mien amy 
Je me suis par les fleurs bien souvent endormi ; 
A I'ombrage d'un saule, ou lisant dans un livre, 
J'ai cherche le moyen de me faire revivre. 

He loved, too, his garden at St. Cosme, for " il savait beattr 
coup de beaux secrets pour le jardinage'' and was skilful in 
^ Frolic. ^ Ni un homme qui. 

250 



RONSARD AND THE PLEIADE 

growing rich fruit, which he sent to Charles IX. His exigent 
Majesty grew rather jealous of all such rural occupations. 

Done ne t' amuse plus a faire ton menage ; 
Maintenant il n'est plus temps de faire jardinage . . . 
Et, crois, si tu ne viens me trouver a Amboise, 
Qu'entre nous adviendra une bien grande noise.^ 

Happily the Court had wherewithal to console the poet for 
his flower-beds. For Ronsard loved the arts — painting and 
sculpture, but, above the rest, music, " the elder sister of 
poetry." " The man," he says, " who when he hears sweet 
harmony of instruments does not rejoice, is not stirred . . . 
and — how I know not — gently ravished and taken out of 
himself, gives a sure sign of a crooked and depraved soul and 
we must beware of him as of one of who is not of happy birth." 
Such was Ronsard's version of the " man who hath no music 
in himself " — of the strange Platonic notion of music, bound up 
with the melody of the spheres. Perhaps, with pardonable 
vanity, the poet most enjoyed the airs set to his own verses 
which he sang to the sound of his lute. 

He never married, but he was always in love, and his suc- 
cessive grandes passions were — for his time — long-lived. He 
had been faithful to Cassandre of Blois for ten years ; his 
devotion to Marie, a humble beauty of Bourgueuil, lasted for 
several more, and was only cut short by her tragic death while 
she was still on the threshold of life. Then, after an interval 
of Astree, or Mademoiselle d'Estrees, he indulged, when he 
was already old, in a more or less Platonic emotion for Helene 
de Surgeres, one of Catherine's ladies, whom he courted with 
stately sentiment in the trim green alleys of the Tuileries. 

Adieu belle Cassandre, et vous belle Marie 

Pour qui je fus trois ans en servage en Bourgueuil : 

L'une vit, I'autre est morte, et ores de son ceil 

Le Ciel se rejouit, dont la terre est marrie . . . 

Maintenant en Automne, encore malheureux, 

Je vis, comme au Printemps, de nature amoureux, 

Afin que tout mon age aille au gre de la peine. 

Et or'que je dusse etre afiranchi du harnois, 

Mon Colonel m'envoie a grands coups de carquois, 

Rassieger Ilion pour conquerir Helene. 

But love never filled so large a place as friendship in his life. 
There are poems of his inscribed to numbers of new friends, 

^ This word — the same as our " noise " — literally translated, means 
" a row." 

251 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

and his intercourse with the old ones — with Belleau, Du 
Bellay, Jamyn and the rest — remained unbroken. When he 
was living in Paris, he would often fly from the fashion to 
breathe at his neighbouring Tour de Meudon, an abode which 
the Cardinal du Bellay had given him for his own ; and here 
Joachim du Bellay sometimes joined him and both together 
passed their time in making mock of the Cure of the Parish, 
one, Frangois Rabelais, who was not slow to return the com- 
pliment in kind. He had already opposed their innovations, 
and their satire was founded on real hatred ; for was not he 
the chief of the great naturalistic school of writing which 
offended all their canons, as well as the professor of eccentric 
opinions which were hardly less objectionable to them ? It is 
curious to think of these poets, with their air of princely dis- 
tinction, meeting the mighty democratic thinker, as they must 
so often have done in their walks abroad — meeting him, nor 
ever dreaming that the royal blood of the immortals was in his 
veins. 

The friendship of Ronsard and Du Bellay was cemented still 
more closely by a quarrel. Close upon Ronsard's volur*e of 
Odes appeared Du Bellay 's " Olive,'* a series of Platonic scjnnets 
addressed to his ideal love, Mademoiselle de Viole, on who^ har- 
monious surname his title was an anagram. He was makmg his 
own footing in poetry as well as in prose. But while RoQsard 
had been preparing his Odes for the press, Du Bellay hap- 
pened to see them and took the opportunity of writing another 
volume of his own, in close imitation of them. There was a 
rupture — there was talk of a lawsuit — but the affair ended in a 
general reconciliation, Ronsard himself encouraging his com- 
rade to go on with the same sort of work. " Their friend- 
ship redoubled in force ... for the Muses cannot dwell alone, 
but live ever in company " — and no more clouds troubled 
their intercourse. 

Their less illustrious colleagues were almost as much made 
of as themselves — Etienne Jodelle, with his " Gallo-Greek " 
tragedy, " Cleopatra,'* was hailed as if he had been ^Eschylus. 
After it had been first performed at Court, the poets " honor ant 
son esprit gaillard et Men appris^^ feted him joyously at 
Arceuil. A banquet was spread on a green lawn ; the com- 
pany composed classic verses after the Greek " Bacchanalia " ; 
a buck— /^ pere du troupeau , . . des Tragiques " le prix " 
was led up to the victorious Jodelle, its head ^y^eathed with 
flowers : 

252 



RONSARD AND THE PLEIADE 

Le bouquet sur I'oreille, et bien fier se sentait 
De quoy telle jeunesse ainsi le presentait. 

The Huguenots made capital out of this festivity and pro- 
claimed that the Pleiade had sacrificed a buck to Bacchus, 
but Ronsard, whom they were trying to hit, ends his delicious 
description of the Anacreontic feast with a half laughing, half 
indignant denial, and he and Du Bellay went on their way, 
unharmed by Calvinistic jeers. 

About the same time as these doings, in the year 1552, 
when Joachim du Bellay was twenty-seven years old, his 
patron and relation, the Cardinal, took him to Rome (as eighteen 
years before he had taken Rabelais) and thus gave a new turn 
to Joachim's thoughts and to his work. He remained there 
for more than four years as the Cardinal's secretary ; he saw 
a great deal of the world and moved among men and affairs ; 
he watched proceedings at the Papal Courts of Julius HI and 
Paul IV ; he was present at ecclesiastical Councils and in the 
confidence of almighty Cardinals. The Roman drama of 
splendour and corruption was played out before his vigilant 
eyes and deepened the bitterness of mood that was all too 
natural to him. It found vent in his verse and he made the 
world his confidant — " car, poete, on pense toujours un peu a ce 
monde pour qui Ton n'e'crit pas," as Sainte-Beuve points out 
with gentle malice. In turns, he sang the vanity and the 
beauty of the Rome in which he lived, now with satire, now 
with sadness, now in French and now in Latin. For no one 
was more susceptible than Joachim to the subtle influences 
of place, and the champion of his native language had become 
subject to the atmosphere of Rome and the fascination of the 
Latin tongue. It was, moreover, his only means of commu- 
nication with such of his Italian friends as did not understand 
French, and the most convenient medium for his modern sar- 
casms d, V antique. His sarcasms unfortunately stood him in 
no good stead, for after he had left Rome, they were made 
the basis of some charges that were brought against him to 
the Cardinal. What these charges exactly were and whether 
he was accused of Hbelling his patron or no, history does not 
record, but there still exists a letter that he wrote to his master 
in self-exoneration — a document too vague to instruct us. 
The prelate evidently forgave him, for some time after this 
correspondence, he showed Joachim marks of his favour. 

These days were, however, still far off and the poet was as 
yet in Rome. He was a moody and intense being ; the melan- 

253 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

choly and the pride of the city of the Caesars pleased him. His 
fastidious senses were soothed, his imagination excited. For 
he was there at a time when the Tiber and the palace-gardens 
were still yielding their buried marbles ; when Michael 
Angelo was working ; when the first painters and scholars 
of the day prepared gorgeous pageants for the populace. The 
poet enjoyed the electric atmosphere ; the man was all the 
time discontented, suffering from the insolence of office, 
imagining himself most unhappy. He yearned for France and 
home ; he was invaded by luxurious melancholy amid the 
imperial ruins. All these emotions are expressed in his French 
poems, " Les Antiquites de Rome" and " Les Regrets " — 
the series of sonnets that he set down from day to day as a 
record of his passing mood. His art had grown richer and 
fuller for his abode in Rome. It had made him at once more 
classical and more modern, or perhaps we should say more 
personal ; and the intimate note in the classic form gives his 
poems a pecuHar distinction. The most exquisite of them, 
" Les Vanneurs," occurs in a later series ; " Les Jeux Rus- 
tiques," in which we still feel the spell of his old Roman 
memories — of crumbling villas, groves of cypress, broken 
statues and carpets of violets — but we choose three sonnets 
from " Les Regrets," so as to give some echo of his feeling 
while yet he dwelt near St. Peter's. 

Je ne veux point fouiller au sein de la nature, 

Je ne veux point chercher I'esprit de I'univers, 
Je ne veux point sonder les abysmes couvers 
Ny dessiner du del la belle architecture. 

Je ne peins mes tableaux de si riche peinture, 

Et si hauts argumens ne recherche a mes vers : 
Mais suivant de ce lieu les accidents divers, 
Soit de bien, soit de mal, j'ecris a Taventure. 

Je me plains a mes vers, si j'ai quelque regret : 
Je me ris avec eux, je leur dis mon secret, 
Comme etants de mon cceur les plus surs secretaires. 

Aussi ne veux-je tant les peigner et f riser, 

Et de plus braves noms ne les veux deguiser, 
Que de papiers journaux, ou bien de commentaires. 



Comte, qui ne fis onques compte de la grandeur. 

Ton Du Bellay n'est plus : ce n'est plus qu'une souche 
Qui dessus un ruisseau d'un dos courbe se couche, 
Et n'a plus rien de vif, qu'un petit de verdeur. 

254 



RONSARD AND THE PLEIADE 

Si j'ecris quelquefois, je n'ecris point d'ardeur, 

J'ecris naivement tout ce qu'au coeur me touche, 
Soit de bien, soit de mal, comme il vient a la bouche, 
En un stile aussi lent que lente est ma froideur. 

Vous autres cependant, peintres de la nature, 

Dont I'art n'est pas enclos dans une portraiture, 
Contrefaites des vieux les ouvrages plus beaux. 

Quant a moi je n'aspire a si haute louange, 

Et ne sont mes portraits aupres de vos tableaux, 
Non plus qu'est un Janet auprds d'un Michel Ange. 



Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage, 
Ou comme celui-la qui conquit la toison, 
Et puis est retourne, plein d'usage et raison, 
Vivre entre ses parents le reste de son age ! 

Quand revoirai-je, helas, de mon petit village 
Fumer la cheminee : et en quelle saison 
Revoirai-je le clos de ma pauvre maison. 
Qui m'est une province, et beaucoup davantage ? 

Plus me plait le sejour qu'ont bati mes aieux. 
Que des palais Romains le front audacieux : 
Plus que le marbre dur me plait I'ardoise fine. 

Plus mon Loire Gaulois, que le Tibre Latin, 
Plus mon petit Lire, que le mont Palatin 
Et plus que I'air marin la douceur Angevine. 

'' His weariness of spirit, his desire for Anjou, all vanished at 
the end of his third year in Rome. For the first time in his 
life, at some thirty years old, he fell passionately in love — with 
no cold ideal cult, as in the case of " Olive," but with a very 
human vehemence. The poetry that he wrote about her is 
very different from what preceded it, though not so accessible 
to the ordinary reader, for his " Amour de Faustine " was 
written in Latin and it is thus that she must have read it. The 
romance is not a pleasant one. His Faustine, or Colomba, 
or Colombelle, as he called her, was an Italian lady, young, 
beautiful — and married. Her husband, who was old and 
jealous, discovered the secret of the pair and removed her 
to safe confinement — eventually in a convent. There were 
tears, there was despair, there were sonnets — and then, 
suddenly, without word of explanation, we find her restored 
to her poet. How the adventure ended and what became of 
the husband, no chronicle tells us, but Du Bellay, with the 
boldness of the Renaissance, could doubtless have proved from 
texts in Plato that his own conduct was the highest-souled 

255 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

imaginable. It could hardly have been as a reward for this 
passage in his history that, after Joachim's return to France, 
his patron offered to make him Archbishop of Bordeaux in 
his stead. But nothing is too strange for a day when clerical 
honours were promiscuously distributed as rewards — when 
Ronsard and De I'Orme and Lescot were Canons of Notre 
Dame, and artists were certainly as clerical in character as 
estabhshed dignitaries of the Church. Joachim, it is true, 
was not appointed, but the Cardinal's intention is none the less 
characteristic. 

His secretary's love affair was probably cut off in the middle, 
for the prelate despatched him rather suddenly to see after 
some business in France. The moment so much longed for 
by the poet had come — the moment of release from office, of 
return to his own country. But already when he stayed at 
Lyons on his homeward journey, his spirit had flown back to 
Italy, and he wrote as one overcome by regret for what he 
had left behind. 

The rest of his story is a sad one — a record of ill-health and 
family cares and growing distress of mind, his increasing deaf- 
ness cutting him off more and more from society. His best 
poetic work was done, and, at thirty-five, he talked of himself 
as an old man. It was when he had reached this age, in the 
year 1560, that, coming home one night from a supper-party, 
he was seized by a fit of apoplexy and died. One of the 
biggest stars in the Pleiade had gone out — " V esprit reuni 
a son eternite " — to use Du Bellay's own words, and he left 
no other to fill his particular place. Death was not dreaded 
by him : 

De mourir ne suis en emoi 
Selon la loi du sort humain, 
Car la meilleure part de moi 
Ne craint point la fatale main : 
Craigne la Mort, la Fortune et I'Ennuie, 
A qui les Dieux n'ont donne qu'une vie. 

Such is his courageous challenge to immortality. 

Du Bellay was a profounder man than Ronsard and not so 
complete. His thoughts dive deeper and rise higher, his touch 
is more warm, more intimate, but he is not so perfect an 
artist, nor so exquisite a master of form. And yet just because 
of his incompleteness, he is more suggestive and closer to us. 
His melancholy — delicate, elusive— sometimes reminds us of 
another French artist who Hved two centuries after : of the 

256 



RONSARD AND THE PLEIADE 

pictures of Antoine Watteau, where the grassy banquets are 
full of sad grace, and huntsmen dream regretfully of what they 
have missed, and lovers sing songs about the end of things. 
But Du Bellay was a classic touched by romance, and Watteau 
was a romantic touched by classicism — a Theocritan classicism 
of the eighteenth century. The gulf of time, too, stretches 
between them and to many, who care for both, the analogy 
may sound fantastic. 

Ronsard, the prosperous poet, had a quarter of a century still 
to live. He went on pubhshing poems, he went on being 
acclaimed. He was a born laureate and sang the virtues of 
royalty, or celebrated the events of the day with natural finish 
and felicity. His poems were dedicated to Catherine, to the 
King, to Jeanne d'Albret, to every great personage at Court, 
but it was perhaps his *' Franciade " which put him on the 
pinnacle of fame. His reputation had grown great in other 
countries, and when Tasso came to France, in 1571, he was 
eager to read his " Godefroi " to Ronsard. And though on 
Henri Hi's accession he was rather put into the shade and 
younger singers were preferred, when the King wished to 
found a kind of private Academie to be held in his own apart- 
ments, he summoned the old poet from his retreat and begged 
him to speak at the assembly. 

The most lovable part of Ronsard's success was his attitude 
towards young men. " He incited those who went to see him — 
more especially such as he judged to be of gentle nature and 
apt to bear good fruit in poesy — to write well, above all to 
write less." . . . " As for me," says his faithful historian, 
Binet, " I shall always mark the day with blessed chalk when 
I went to see him, young in years and in experience (being 
barely sixteen years old), but having tasted in some sort the 
honey stored in his writings. Not only did he welcome the 
first-fruits of my Muse, but he spurred me on to continue, and 
also to visit him often ; nor was he ever chary in confiding 
those heavenly secrets with the which, the first of all men, he 
kindled my love of poesy." 

Binet was one of a group of young poets formed more or 
less by the Pleiade, men whose names are long since forgotten, 
though their world believed them to be immortal. " La 
France d'Homeres est pleine,'' so had Ronsard sung in all 
good faith. There was, however, no flattery in the instruc- 
tions that he gave them. " You must be careful — " he said — 
" to read good poets and you must learn them by heart as 

257 S 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

much as possible. Spare no labour in correcting and polishing 
your verses and do not forgive them any more than a good 
gardener forgives his graft when he sees it loaded with 
useless branches. . . . Hold sweet and honest converse with 
the poets of your time . . . and show them what you write ; for 
you should never let any work see the light unless it has first 
been seen, and seen again, by the friends whom you deem most 
skilful in this business" — a precept which himself he always 
practised, diligently pruning and perfecting his poems according 
to the counsels he received. What he resented was mediocrity 
— " medoicrite qui est extreme vice " — and the buzzing race 
of minor poets, as active then as in all times, excited his worst 
severity, especially when they pretended to be like him. 
" Their spirit" — ^he once said to a friend — " is turbulent . . . 
more violent than keen, like the winter torrents, which get as 
much mud as clear water from the hills. In their desire to 
avoid common language, they encumber themselves with 
words, and with hard, fantastic mannerisms which are apt 
to mean mere windy impressions rather than the true Virgilian 
majesty — for it is one thing to be grave and majestic, and another 
to swell out your style and make it burst." Poetry, he added, 
was the language of the gods, and men should not dare be 
its interpreters " if they had not been anointed from their 
birth and dedicated to this ministry." 

For the rest, he was of a sociable turn, ''fort facile" in 
conversation with those he cared about and not too fastidious 
about his company. " He liked men who were studious, of a 
clear conscience, open and simple," as he was himself, " for 
his countenance, his manners and his writings bore ever in 
their forefront I know not what stamp of nobihty, and in all 
his actions one could feel the quality of a true French gentle- 
man." The last journey he took was to see his crony, Galland, 
his second soul, as he called him. 

Heureux qui peut trouver pour passer I'aventure 
De ce monde, un amy de gentille nature, 
Comme tu es Galland, en qui les cieux ont mis 
Tout le parfait requis aux plus parfaits amis. 
J^ mon soir s'embrunit, et deja ma journee 
Fuit, vers son Occident a demy retoumee. 

Thus he wrote of his friend towards the close, and it was at 
Galland's house, " le Parnasse de Paris," where he often 
stayed with such enjoyment, that his last illness overtook him. 
He sent for a coach and started for home, carrying with him 

258 



RONSARD AND THE PLElADE 

his Galland, from whom he would not consent to separate. 
"I fear — " he wrote from Croix val — "that the autumn leaves 
will see me fall with them." He was right. In December, 
1585, came the end. He had risen and dressed to take Com- 
munion ; it displeased him to take it otherwise. All through 
his nights of pain, he had steadily gone on writing verses which 
he dictated in the morning to Galland. Often they are cries 
of distress — 

Misericorde 6 Dieu ! 6 Dieu ne me consume 
A faute d'endorrair . . . 

Heureux, cent fois heureux, animaux qui dormez 
Demi an en vos trous, sous la terre enfermes. 

Or he shows us the path of Death, in colours more sombre 
and more natural than any he had yet used. 

C'est un chemin facheux, borne de peu d'espace. 
Trace de peu de gens, que la ronce pava, 
Ou le chardon poignant ses tetes eleva ; 

Prends courage pourtant, et ne quitte la place. 

There was little in the outside world to cheer his courageous 
spirit. He talked constantly about the trouble that threatened 
his country, '' d'un discours bel et grave'' and with almost his 
old fire. At the last, he longed for change and moved to Tours, 
staying at his own Priory and summoning one of the monks 
there to attend him. " The monk asked him professionally 
in what religion he died. " Who has told you to say that, 
my good friend ? " replied Ronsard — " Do you doubt of my 
good faith ? I wish to die in the CathoHc rehgion, like my 
fathers and my grandfathers to the third generation." After 
this, he was possessed by a desire to get new poems written 
down, and just before his death he dictated his last two sonnets, 
inciting his soul to set forth and seek its Christ. When he 
passed away, it was as if he slept, and those around the bed 
only knew that it was over, because the hands that he had 
lifted upwards suddenly dropped.^ 

^ Mr. Hilaire Belloc, whose recently published book, Avril, I have 
read since my own was completed, makes much of Ronsard's Roman 
Catholicism and would fain have us believe that it denoted religious 
ardour. But it is difl&cult for those who read with unbiassed minds to 
blind themselves to the utter conventionality of the poet's rehgion. 
We cannot do better than quote the report of Ronsard's dying speeches, 
cited by Mr. Belloc in his volume and constituting his main piece of 
evidence. 

" He said that he had swerved Uke other men and perhaps more than 

259 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Ronsard was buried at Tours, but the great funeral 
service at Paris did not take place till two months later. 
" It was sung by all the children of the Muses." Cardinals, 
Senate, Parlement and University were all of them present, 
and the crowd was so great that the Cardinal de Bourbon 
himself was obliged to turn back from the church. The 
Oraison Fun^bre, pronouncd after dinner by the Bishop-Poet, 
Du Perron, was followed by enthusiastic applause and, that 
over, an Eclogue was acted, composed by Ronsard's literary 
executors. It seemed that the chief of the Ple'iade had carried 
his success beyond the grave. 

" Ulntellect, qui comme un grand Capitaine du haut d^un 
rempart, commande d ses solddts " — these his own words 
might well serve as his epitaph. He had perhaps more intellect 
than imagination, but, however that may be, he had (to use 
another of his princely phrases) " travelled far on the green 
path that leads men into remembrance." 

It is difficult to assign to Ronsard his right place in Olympus. 
The Immortals by no means form a republic, and there are 
many different ranks among them. Ronsard does not belong 
to the first rank, nor could so insistent an artificer belong to 
the greatest of the artists. He and his school must be counted 
rather with Cellini and the master-goldsmiths — with the ex- 
quisite sculptors in petto, the fastidious chasers of jewelled 
vases — than with the bigger creators. The work of the Pleiade 
was, if the phrase be allowable, naturally artificial ; its grace 
was studied and made no pretence to be otherwise. But in 
the sixteenth century, artificialness could still be naif ; it had 
a cooling freshness, besides a subtle piquancy to charm the 
intellect as well as the eye. And another interesting result 
was due to Ronsard and his colleagues. They, first in France, 

most ; that his senses had led him away by their charm, and that he 
had not repressed or constrained them as he should ; but none the less 
he had always held that Faith which the men of his line had left him ; he 
had always clasped close the creed and the unity of the Catholic Church ; 
that in fine, he had laid a sure foundation, but he had built thereon 
with wood, with hay, with straw. As for the light and worthless things 
he had built upon it, he had trust in the mercy of the Saviour that they 
would be burnt in the fire of His love. And now he begged them all to 
believe hard as he had believed ; but not to live as he had lived." 

Whoever is accustomed to the deathbed language of kings and great 
personages of those days will recognize the conventional strain of these 
words and their absence of individuality. And when he compares it 
with the Pagan tone of Ronsard's poetry, he will easily perceive which 
meant the real man. The words which I have underlined in the quota- 
tion strike the keynote of tradition on which Ronsard's faith was based. 

260 



RONSARD AND THE PLEIADE , ; ' 

began the race of conscious artists. " For the secret of saying 
things perfectly does not He in the abundance, or the pell- 
mell profusion of all flowers, but in the rejection of some and 
the choice and ordering of the loveliest — just as in the course 
of our life many things present themselves whereof few please 
us, and fewer still engender that surpassing content which 
ravisheth our enchanted spirits." So wrote one of the school. 
They foreshadowed the theory of art for art's sake which 
recent days have worn so thin. For whereas the great men 
of the Renaissance have always spoken of their work in the 
most matter-of-fact way, these men began to talk of art 
imaginatively. Du Bellay compares one kind with another, 
discusses the merits of historian and poet, and finds analogies 
for both in painting and sculpture. 

Tel que ce premier-la (the historian) est votre Janet ^ Sire ; 
Et tel que le second (the poet), Michel Ange on peut dire. 

The writer of this couplet had eaten of the tree of Criticism 
and his recognition of the poetry that breathed in the marbles 
of Michael Angelo sounded a modern note which had hitherto 
been unknown. As yet, however, he and his school had no 
notion of separating art and artist. If the standard of morahty 
in the Renaissance was a great deal laxer than ours, the 
standard of " honnetete " — that untranslatable word includ- 
ing truth and amenity — was higher than it is now. " For 
because — " writes Ronsard — " the Muses will not dwell in a 
spirit that is not kind and holy, take care to have a good 
nature, neither gloomy nor malicious nor niggardly. . . . And 
above all, nourish fair and lofty conceptions — such as do not 
drag upon the earth." 

It remains to consider the precise work that Ronsard 
achieved, not as an Immortal, but as a Frenchman ; the per- 
manent mark which he left upon the literature of his country. 
It would be folly to plagiarize or repeat, when Sainte-Beuve — 
Judge in the High Court of Appeal of Letters — has already 
pronounced a verdict ; nor can we do better than close a 
chapter on the Pleiade with his own adequate summary. 

" When Ronsard appeared, the study of antiquity, freed 
from the obstacles that first impeded it, was in all its bril- 
liance and its glory. At the beginning, the only labour had 
been to decipher manuscripts, to re-estabhsh texts and publish 

^ The other name for Clone t, which was the surname of the famous 
family of portrait-painters. 

261 



CATHERINE DE' MEDlCI 

editions with commentaries. Translations did not suit the 
Hterary taste of the scholars who were the men of letters of 
that day, and if they deigned to give an occasional thought 
to their mother- tongue, it was to regret that it did not of itself 
make some freer attempt in the paths of antiquity. Ronsard 
felt the need and responded to it marvellously. An admirer 
of the ancients, with a certain independence of mind, he 
initiated, instead of translating them ; all his originality, all 
his audacity, is to have been the first to imitate. ModeUinghis 
sonnets upon those of Petrarch, his odes upon those of Pindar 
and Horace, his songs upon Anacreon, his elegies upon TibuUus, 
his " Franciade " upon the ^Eneid, he set within this borrowed 
framework a force that was living enough to earn infinite 
gratitude. It was the first time that the physiognomy of the 
past lived again in our common idiom, and the world of letters 
hailed the poet with that sort of indulgence — almost of weak- 
ness — that is felt for the man who reproduces, or recalls the 
face that we have reverenced . . . 

"... While we cease to read or to relish Ronsard, can we 
reproach him with anything worse than the misfortune of 
arriving too soon and the fault of marching too quickly ? A 
large vocabulary to choose from did not exist in France. 
Ronsard saw the want and set himself to improvise one. He 
created new words ; he rejuvenated old ones ; and as for those 
already in use among the people, he tried to dignify them by 
fresh aUiances. The system was conceived on the grand scale, 
and the success it obtained proves that it was skilfully executed. 
Enlightened people welcomed it, exalted it ; it seemed that 
the French language had again found its title-deeds and yielded 
to none the rights of precedence. Into this joy of triumph 
there glided something of the intoxication of the parvenu and 
the vanity of the man who has just risen. Unfortunately this 
splendour could not last long, because it lacked the strong 
support of the nation." 

The attempt of the Pleiade, like that of the French Refor- 
mation, was too aristocratic, too far removed from the people, 
to be capable of lasting success. But it has dropped more 
than one choice flower on the long straight roads of France, 
and some exist still who love their faint cold fragrance. 



262 



CHAPTER XIII 

Ronsard and the Elizabethans 



263 



AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 



Oeuvres Poetiques de Ronsard. 

Oeuvres Po6tiques de Joachim Du Bellay. 

Oeuvres Choisies de Ronsard — Sainte-Beuve. 

Oeuvres de Remy Belleau. 

French Lyrics — Saintshury. 



264 



CHAPTER XIII 

Ronsard and the Elizabethans 

No one — not Shakespeare in his Sonnets — believed in his 
own immortaUty more firmly than Ronsard. His lyre 
is constantly celebrating his fame with more or less melody. 
He describes how people turn round to look at him in the 
streets, he bids the Muses bring laurels to wreathe his brow. 

C'est fait, j'ai devide le cours de mes destins, 
J'ai vecu, j'ai rendu mon ame assez insigne ; 
Ma plume vole au del pour etre quelque signe, 

Loin des appas raondains qui trompent les plus fins. 

* * * « ;K 

Toujours, tou jours, sans que jamais je meure 

Je volerai tout vif par I'univers, 
Eternisant les champs ou je demeure. 

Ronsard lacked the quality that ensures immortality — 
the moral insight which our Elizabethan poets possessed. 
This it was, joined to his genius for expression, which gave 
Shakespeare, the epitome of them all, his supremacy among 
the Olympians, his hold upon the hearts of men. For as one 
of his most distinguished critics ^ points out, " it was owing 
to that surefooted step of his in things moral that he left us 
in the end satisfied." And this may be said in a lesser degree 
of his contemporaries, of Spenser and Sidney and Fulke 
Greville, of Raleigh and Drummond of Hawthornden, and the 
many other stars in that glorious company which has shed its 
lustre upon England. 

There were certain elements of the Renaissance which were 
common to every country. In all nations there was a noble 
and naif curiosity, a generous spirit of intellectual adventure, 
a stir of the Spring at the roots of things, so that every creature, 
from the least to the greatest, was filled with impetuous vitality. 
The mind had thrown open its gates and nothing was im- 
possible. Thought was an emotion and became poetry ; 
science was a magnificent romance, and universal knowledge 
^ Canon Ainger : Lecture on the Ethics of Shakespeare. 

265 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

the El Dorado to which all captains steered their vessels. 
But each country had its own particular power which dis- 
tinguished its Renaissance from that of other lands. In 
Italy, a triumphant sense of beauty prevailed ; Germany 
contributed the intellectual faculty which helped to evolve 
the Refomiation — the metaphysical tendency, the genius for 
abstract thought which seems embodied in Diirer's Melan- 
cholia. In France we find the sceptical and practical quality 
which engendered the shrewd daily philosophy of a Rabelais 
and a Montaigne, and created the great palaces that turned 
into comfortable homes ; the forcible discrimination which has, 
in later days, made the French the past-masters of criticism. 
And when we come to England, it is the moral genius which 
is its strength ; the profound perception of moral issues 
and situations, the knowledge of hidden motives and of the 
human heart, which, encountering, as it did, a golden tide 
of language, evoked our drama and our poetry. 

The Drama and Poetry have this advantage : they make 
a border-land upon which the rival forces, sesthetic and 
spiritual — Renaissance and Reformation — can meet. For the 
distinctive gift of each people mingled with that great wave 
of beauty which flowed from Italy, inundating and fertihzing 
the earth ; and in England, where the aesthetic sense was 
weakest and slowest of development, national painting and 
architecture were practically non-existent,^ and all the energy 
of the Renaissance poured itself into our literature. Perhaps 
it is hardly to be wondered at that such a current should 
make its single channel a deep one, and more congenial to the 
soul than the contemporary hterature of other countries. 

The nobler part 
Of all the house here is the heart. 

Such is the gist of English poetry among the singers who 
correspond to the Ple'iade.^ 

Very different was the outcome of the verse written by the 
French Anacreons. Their note is one of subtle regret. Let 
us eat and drink, let us crown our heads with roses, and love 

^ The only painters of note at that date were disciples of Holbein's 
school ; while, as Mr. Blomfield points out, the Renaissance in archi- 
tecture did not begin until nearly a century later {Renaissance in 
Architecture). 

^ Many of them lived a decade or so later than the Pleiade, but each 
group represented the Renaissance of Poetry, and the one answered 
to the other, 

266 



RONSARD AND THE ELIZABETHANS 

for the fleeting moment, for to-morrow we die — this is the 
burden of their song. They make Hfe seem even shorter 
than it is ; they leave the taste of dust upon our lips — dust 
from the slopes of Parnassus, but, none the less, mortal diet. 

Et je dois bientot en cendre 
Aux Champs Elysees descendre, 
Sans qu'il reste rien de moi 
Qu'un petit je ne sais quoi 
Qu'un petit vase de pierre 
Cachera dessous la terre. 

Such is the cry against fate which makes Ronsard's constant 
refrain. The cry may be a true one, but he does not get 
beyond it, and there is all the difference between this and 
George Peek's 

Beauty, strength, youth, are flowers but fading seen ; 
Duty, faith, love are roots and ever green. 

— lines equally characteristic of the school they represent. 

Nowhere do we feel more strongly the spiritual difference 
between the poetry of England and of France, than in their 
conceptions of love. With Ronsard, Du Bellay, and their 
followers, love is ever the matter of a song and a summer day, 
of a Lesbia or a Chloe, as hght and as passing as the south 
wind. The summer day may prolong itself, the song may 
be sung to a silvery lyre ; and yet, for all its sweetness, it 
expresses nothing but a graceful materialism — now gay, 
now luxuriously melancholy, now bursting through the 
flowery meshes. Such music was no new thing ; Anacreon 
and Pindar and Horace, the Ancients who inspired the French- 
men, sang the same strain before them. But the Ehzabethans 
of England cherished that large and sane idea of love which 
has been the glory of EngHsh poetry from their day to that 
of Robert Browning : a noble reconcilement of soul and body, 
an equal companionship, a passion for beauty and for some- 
thing else besides, a tender loyalty and devotion lasting when 
passion is over. 

The nearest EngHsh counterpart of the Pleiade is to be found 
later on in Herrick, the unclerical Horatian clergyman who 
played his Golden Numbers — his songs to Julia and AmaryUis 
— upon dulcet pan-pipes of antique form. Or else, we have 
Ronsard's equivalent in the Cavalier singers, Hght of soul and 
sweet of tongue, and the writers of the Restoration who frankly 
imitated the French. Herrick himself had most hkely read 
Ronsard and Du Bellay, and had been in some measure 

267 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

affected by them. But when these men Hved, the struggle 
of the Reformation was over, nor could they any longer feel 
its influence. And nothing more clearly brings out the 
temperament of a nation than the effect of a great movement 
upon its life and literature. To some readers, the stately 
march of Elizabethan verse may at times seem rather ponder- 
ous after the sinuous grace, the delicate motion of Ronsard 
and his circle. But it must in honesty be added that their 
master-pieces of grace are frequently hidden in a mass of 
wordy dullness. Ronsard can hardly be read without selec- 
tion, and the flatness of his long poems must always prevent 
their being known. The Elizabethans, in compensation for 
being so massive, give us fewer pages of tedium, and the bulk 
of language and of feeling which distinguishes their work 
turns their very weight into dignity. 

It is interesting, after any consideration of poetry, to take 
a few poems upon like subjects from either literature and to 
set them side by side. We will quote almost exclusively 
from Ronsard, because he gave voice to the thoughts of his 
colleagues and expressed them with the greatest beauty. He 
is, for instance, mourning his loved and lost Marie. 
SUR LA MORT DE MARIE 
Esperant luy center un jour 

L'impatience de 1' amour 

Qui m'a fait des peines sans nombre, 

La mort soudaine m'a de9u, 

Pour le vray le faux j'ai re9u, 

Et pour le corps seulement I'ombre. . 

Helas ! ou est ce doux parler, 
Ce voir, cet ouir, cet aller, 
Ce ris qui me faisoit apprendre 
Que c'est qu'aimer ? Ha ! doux refus ! 
Ha ! doux dedains, vous n'etes plus, 
Vous n'etes plus qu'un peu de cendre ! 

Helas 1 ou est cette beaute, 
Ce prin temps, cette nouveaute 
Qui n'aura jamais de seconde ? 
Du ciel tous les dons elle avait ; 
Aussi parfaite ne devait 
Longtemps demeurer en ce monde. . . , 

Le sort doit tousjours etre egal. 
Si j'ai pour toi souffert du mal, 
Tu me dois part de ta lumiere ; 
Mais, franche du mortel lien, 
Tu as seule emporte le bien 
Ne me laissant que la misdre. 
268 



RONSARD AND THE ELIZABETHANS 

En ton age le plus gaillard 
Tu as seul laisse ton Ronsard, 
Dans le ciel trop tot retournee, 
Perdant beaute, grace et couleur, 
Tout ainsi qu'une belle fleur 
Qui ne vit qu'une matinee. 

En mourant tu m'as su fermer 
Si bien tout argument d'aimer 
Et toute nouvelle entreprise, 
Que rien a mon gre je ne vols, 
Et tout cela qui n'est pas toi 
Me deplait et je les meprise. 

Si tu veux. Amour, que je sois 
Encore un coup dessous tes lois, 
M'ordonnant un nouveau service, 
II te faut sous la terre aller 
Flatter Pluton et rappeller 
En lumi^re mon Eurydice. 

Ou bien, va-t'en la-haut crier 
A la Nature, et la prier x 

D'en faire une aussi admirable ; 
Mais j'ai grand peur qu'elle rompit 
La moule alors qu'elle la fit, 
Pour n'en tracer plus de semblable. . , . 

Soit que tu vives prds de Dieu, 
Ou aux Champs Elysees, adieu. 
Adieu, cent fois, adieu, Marie ; 
Jamais Ronsard ne t'oublira, 

Jamais la mort ne delira , 

Le nceud dont ta beaute me lie. 

Drummond of Hawthornden also lost his love in the early 
days of manhood. 

Sweet soul, which in the April of thy years. 

For to enrich the heaven mad'st poor this round, 
And now, with flaming rays of glory crown' d, 

Most blest abides above the sphere of spheres ; 
If heavenly laws, alas ! have not thee bound 

From looking to this globe that all up-bears. 
If ruth and pity there above be found, 

O deign to lend a look unto these tears : 

Do not disdain (dear ghost) this sacrifice ; 
And though I raise not pillars to thy praise. 

My off'rings take, let this for me suffice, 
My heart a living pyramid I'll raise : 

And whilst kings' tombs with laurels flourish green. 

Thine shall with myrtles and these flowers be seen. 

Lord Herbert of Cherbury only dreamed that he had lost 
his lady. 

269 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

O no, Belov'd : I am most sure 

These virtuous habits we acquire 

As being with the soul entire 
Must with it evermore endure. 

Else should our souls in vain elect ; 

And vainer yet were Heaven's laws, 

When to an everlasting cause 
They give a perishing effect. 

These eyes again thine eyes shall see. 
These hands again thine hand enfold, 
And all chaste blessings can be told 

Shall with us everlasting be. 

And if ev'ry imperfect mind 
Make love the end of knowledge here. 
How perfect will our love be where 

All imperfection is refined 1 

So when from hence we shall be gone. 

And be no more nor you or I, 

As one another's mystery 
Each shall be both, yet both but one. 

Ronsard was not much given to acquiring virtuous habits, 
or wishing them to endure. Here are two of his most char- 
acteristic poems. 

Quand je suis vingt ou trente mois 
Sans retourner en Vendomois, 
Plein de pensees vagabondes, 
Plein d'un remords et d'un souci, 
Aux rochers je me plains ainsi, 
Aux bois, aux antres, et aux ondes : 

Rochers, bien que soyez S,g6s 
De trois mille ans, vous ne changez 
Jamais ny d'etat ni de forme ; 
Mais toujours ma jeunesse fuit, 
Et la viellesse qui me suit 
De jeune en vieillard me transforme. . 

Ondes, sans fin vous promenez, 
Et vous menez et ramenez 
Vos flots d'un cours qui ne sejourne ; 
Et moi, sans faire long sejour, 
Je m'en vais de nuit et de jour, 
Au lieu d'oii plus on ne retourne. 

Si est-ce que je ne voudrais 
Avoir 6te ni roc ni bois, 
Antre ni onde, pour defendre 
Mon corps contre I'age emplume : 
Car, ainsi dur, je n'eusse aime 
Toi qui m'as fait vieillir, Cassandre. 
270 



RONSARD AND THE ELIZABETHANS 

Celui qui est mort aujourd'hui 
Est aussi bien mort que celui 
Qui mourut au jour du deluge. 
Autant vaut aller le premier 
Que de sojourner le dernier 
Devant le parquet du grand juge. 

Incontinent que Thomme est mort. 
Pour jamais ou longtemps il dort 
Au creux d'une tombe enfouie. 
Sans plus parler, ouir ne voir ; 
He, quel bien saurait-on avoir 
En perdant les yeux et Touie ? 

Or, Tdme selon le bienfait 
Qu'hotesse du corps elle a fait, 
Monte au ciel, sa maison natale ; 
Mais le corps, nourriture a vers, 
Dissout de veines et de nerfs, 
N'est plus qu'une ombre sepulcrale. 

II n'a plus esprit ni raison, 
Emboiture ni liaison, 
Artdre, pouls, ni veine tendre ; 
Cheveu en tdte ne luy tient, 
Et, qui plus est, ne lui souvient 
D'avoir jadis aime Cassandre. 

Le mort ne desire plus rien ; 
Done, cependant que j'ai le bien 
De d6sirer, vif, je demande 
i^tre tousjours sain et dispos ; 
Puis, quand je n'auray que les os, 
Le reste a Dieu je recommende. 

Homere est mort, Anacreon, 
Pindare, Hesiode et Bion, 
Et plus n'ont souci de s'enquerre 
Du bien et du mal qu'on dit d'eux ; 
Ainsi, apres un sidcle ou deux. 
Plus ne sentirai rien sous terre. 

Mais de quoi sert le desirer 
Sinon pour I'homme martirer ? 
Le desir n'est rien que martire ; 
Content ne vit le desireux, 
Et I'homme mort est bien-heureux, 
Heureux qui plus rien ne desire ! 

The next lines were written on his death-bed. 

Amelette, Ronsardelette, 
Mignonnelette, doucelette, 
Tres-chdre hotesse de mon corps, 
Tu descends 1^-bas faiblelette. 
Pale, maigrelette, seulette, 
Dans le froid royaume des morts ; 
271 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Toutesfois simple, sans remords 
De meurtre, poison, et rancune, 
Meprisant faveurs et tresors 
Tant envies par la commune. 
Passant, j'ai dit ; suis ta fortune, 
Ne trouble mon repos : je dors ! 

To return to life : here is Ronsard's deliciously cool answer 
to the problem-s of existence. 

J'ai I'esprit tout ennuye 
D' avoir trop etudi6 
Les Ph^nomenes d'Arate : 
II est temps que je m'eMte, 
Et que j'aille aux champs jouer. 
Bons Dieux ! qui voudrait louer 
Ceux qui, colles sur un livre, 
N'ont jamais souci de vivre ? 

Que nous sert r6tudier, 
Sinon de nous ennuyer, 
Et soin dessus, soin accretre — 
A nous qui serons, peut-^tre, 
Ou ce matin, ou ce soir, 
Victime de I'Orque noir ? 
De rOrque qui ne pardonne, 
Tant il est fier, a personne ? 

Corydon, marche devant, 
Sache oii le bon vin se vend : 
Pais refrdschir ma bouteille, 
Cherche une feuilleuse treille 
Et des fleurs pour me coucher, 
Ne m'ach^te point de chair, 
Car tant soit elle friande, 
L'6te je hais la viande. 

Ores que je suis dispos, 
Je veux rire sans repos, 
De peur que la maladie 
Un de ces jours ne me die : 
Je t'ai maintenant vaincu, 
Meurs, galant, c'est trop v6cu. 

The voice of this poet, who sang " Vanitas vanitatum " 
so merrily, with such gay mockery, could only have been 
heard in France. And what Frenchman, on the other hand, 
could have said with Sir Walter Raleigh — 
Give me my scallop-shell of quiet. 
My staff of faith to walk upon. 
My scrip of joy, immortal diet, 

My bottle of salvation, 
My gown of glory, hope's true gage ; 
And thus I'll take my pilgrimage. 
272 



RONSARD AND THE ELIZABETHANS 

Blood must be my body's balmer ; 

No other balm will there be given ; 
Whilst my soul, like quiet palmer, 

Travelleth toward the land of heaven ; 
Over the silver mountains, 
Where spring the nectar fountains : 

There will I kiss 

The bowl of bliss, 
And drink mine everlasting fill 
Upon every milken hill. 
My soul will be a-dry before ; 
But after it will thirst no more. 

Or with Fulke Greville — 

The chief use then in Man of that he knows 
Is his painstaking for the good of all ; 

Not fleshly weeping for our own made woes. 
Not laughing from a melancholy gall. 

Not hating from a soul that overflows 
With bitterness, breathed out from inward thrall : 

But sweetly rather to ease, loose or bind. 

As need requires, this frail, fall'n human kind. 

Or, again, with Campion — 

Good thoughts his only friends, 

His wealth a well-spent age, 
The earth his sober inn 

And quiet pilgrimage. 

Ronsard and his Pleiade would not have been at all happy 
in a " sober inn," and but for the austerity which scholarship 
required — the intellectual discipUne, the vigils, the poverty 
which they so well understood — they were all of them con- 
vinced Epicureans. Not that they lack passages of a high 
and solemn strain. They are scattered here and there through- 
out the pages of Ronsard, hidden often in lengthy poems, too 
tedious for the ordinary reader. This quotation from his 
" Hymne a la Mort," which consoled Chatelard on the 
scaffold, shows him perhaps at his loftiest. 

Que ta puissance, 6 Mort, est grande et admirable 1 
Rien au monde par toi ne se dit perdurable, 
Mais tout ainsi que I'onde, a val des ruisseaux, fuit 
Le pressant coulement de I'autre qui la suit ; 
Ainsi le temps se coule, et le present fait place 
Au futur importun qui les talons lui trace. 
Ce qui fut se refait ; tout coule comme une eau, 
Et rien dessous le ciel ne se voit de nouveau ; 
Mais la forme se change en une autre nouvelle, 
Et ce changement-la, " vivre," au monde s'appelle, 
Et " mourir " quand la forme en une autre s'en va ; 

273 T 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Ainsi avec Venus la Nature trouva 
Moyen de ranimer par longs et divers changes 
La matidre restant, tout cela que tu manges ; 
Mais notre ame immortelle est toujours en un lieu, 
Au change non sujette, assise aupres de Dieu, 
Citoyenne a jamais de la ville eth^ree. 

And as a corollary to this thought we may add — 

Que I'homme est malheureux qui au monde se fie. 

O Dieu ! que veritable est la philosophic 

Qui dit que toute chose a la fin perira 

Et qu'en changeant de forme une autre v^tira. 

De Tempe la vallee un jour sera montagne 
Et la cime d'Athos une large campagne ; 
Neptune quelquefois de ble sera couvert : 
La matidre demeure et la forme se perd. 

It is not without interest to compare with this an English 
poem containing much the same idea. 

Nothing is constant but in constant change. 

What's done still is undone, and when undone 
Into some other fashion doth it range ; 

Thus goes the floating world beneath the moon : 
Wherefore, my mind, above time, motion, place, 
Rise up and steps unknown to Nature trace. 

This is Drummond of Hawthornden's, and his again is 
what follows — 

Beneath a sable veil, and shadows deep 
Of inaccessible and dimming light, 
In silence, ebon clouds more black than night. 

The world's great Mind His secrets hid doth keep : . . , 

O Sun invisible, that dost abide 

Within thy bright abysms, most fair, most dark. 
Where with thy proper rays thou dost thee hide, 

O ever-shining, never full-seen mark. 
To guide me in life's night, thy light me show ; 
The more I search of thee the less I know. . . 

Light is thy curtain : thou art Light of light ; 
An ever-waking eye still shining bright. . . . 

Never not working, ever yet in rest. 

This last poem brings us to final causes, and to the ultimate 
reason of the divergences we have attempted to discuss. The 
idea of God — the God of the sixteenth century — was widely 
different in either nation. To the English poets of the age, 
He represented mystery — the Force who harmonized intellect, 
passion and virtue — the Unity of all things, after which the 

' 274 



RONSARD AND THE ELIZABETHANS 

Renaissance sought with persistent fervour. To the French 
Classics, He was either a natural force, or an aristocratic 
First Person — definite, accurate, remote, clad, not in clouds, 
but in dogma. Ronsard, when he has spoken of the misery 
and labour of man, of the incessant toil of Nature, thus 
concludes — 

Ainsi Dieu I'a voulu, afin que seul il vive 

Affranchi du labeur que la race chetive 

Des humains va rongeant de soucis langoureux. 

— words which in themselves seem to call forth a French Revo- 
lution. Joachim du Bellay, with greater depth and faultier 
form, can sound a nobler strain than Ronsard, but a Pagan 
strain it still remains. 

L^ est le bien que tout esprit desire, 

La le repos ou tout le monde aspire ... 

La, oh mon ame, au plus haut ciel guidee, 

Tu y pourras reconnaitre Tidee 

De la beaute qu'en ce monde j 'adore. 

Absolute Beauty, a Hellenic god, was Du Bellay 's ideal. 
He hated " le vulgaire," he believed in the supremacy of the 
Intellect, but he got no higher than this. 

If we want a French counterpart to the Deity of Drummond 
and his compeers, we must seek it not in verse, but in prose — 
in the pages of Frangois Rabelais. " That intellectual Sphere," 
he says, " whose centre is everywhere, whose circumference 
is nowhere, and whom we call God. The Egyptians hailed 
their Sovereign Deity as the Abstruse — the Hidden One. 
And because they invoked Him by this name, entreating Him 
to reveal Himself to them, He widened their knowledge of 
Himself and His creatures, guiding them by His bright 
lantern." Here we find warmth and Hght, and that treasure 
of spiritual wealth which the Pleiade were not born to give us. 

II 

It is time to leave comparisons and only to dwell upon the 
charm possessed by Ronsard and his school. If they were 
not made to produce grandeur of conception, they excelled 
in exquisiteness of detail, and they give enchanting pictures of 
trees and flowers and water — especially of water. For in 
this, the poet Ronsard was Hke the sculptor, Jean Goujon. 
Fountains and forest-springs seemed to exercise the same 
spell upon both, and there is hardly one of Ronsard's best- 
wrought poems that does not make mention of them. Nor 

275 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

was he at any time so happy as when he lay " in a green shade " 
by the water's brim, drawing sweet suggestion from the 
plashing music of the fountain in the woods of Gas tine. 

Perhaps the easiest way to give his work its full effect 
is to put together a few of his most perfect poems — clear-cut 
gems of many flashing facets — and to let them speak for them- 
selves. 

A LA FONTAINE BELLERIE 

Ecoute-moi, Fontaine vive, 

En qui j'ay rebu si souvent, 
Couche tout plat dessus ta rive, 

Oisif, a la fraicheur du vent, 

Quand I'Ete menager moissonne 

Le sein de Ceres devdtu, 
Et I'air par compas ressonne, 

Gemissant sous le ble battu. 

Ainsi tousjours puisses-tu 6tre 

En religion a tons ceux 
Qui te boiront, ou feront paitre 

Tes verts rivages a leurs boeufs 1 

Ainsi tousjours la Lune claire 

Voie a minuit au fond d'un val 
Les Nymphes prds de ton repaire 
^ A mille bonds mener le bal ; 

Comme je desire, Fontaine, 

De plus ne songer boire en toi 
L'Ete, lors que la fidvre amene 

La Mort, despite contre moi. 

ELEGIE 

Mais^adieu, Fontaine, adieu ! 
Tressaillante par ce lieu 
Vous courrez perpetuelle 
D'une course perennelle, 
Vive sans jamais tarir ; 
Et je dois bientot mourir 
Et je dois bientot en cendre 
Aux Champs Elysees descendre. 
Sans qu'il reste rien de moi 
Qu'un petit je ne sais quoi 
Qu'un petit vase de pierre 
Cachera dessous la terre. 

Toutefois, ains que mes yeux 
Quittent le beau jour des cieux 
Je vous pri', ma Fontelette, 
Ma doucelette ondelette, 
276, 



RONSARD AND THE ELIZABETHANS 

Je vous pri', n'oubliez pas 
Des le jour de mon trepas, 
Centre vos rives de dire 
Que Ronsard dessus sa lyre 
N'a votre nom dedaigne, 
Et que Cassandre a baigne 
Sa belle peau doucelette 
En vostre claire ondelette. 



A LA FOR]^T DE GASTINE 

Couche sous tes ombrages verts, 

Gas tine, je te chante 
Autant que les Grecs, par leurs vers. 

La fordt d'Erymanthe : 
Car, malin, celer je ne puis 

A la race future 
De combien oblige je suis 

A ta belle verdure. 
Toi qui, sous I'abri de tes bois, 

Ravi d'esprit m'amuses ; 
Toi qui fais qu'a toutes les fois 

Me repondent les Muses ; 
Toi par qui de I'importun soin 

Tout franc je me delivre, 
Lors qu'en toi je me perds bien loin, 

Parlant avec un livre ; 
Tes bocages soient tousjours pleins 

D'amoureuses brigades — 
De Satyres et de Sylvains, 

La crainte des Naiades ! 
En toi habite desormais 

Des Muses le college, 
Et ton bois ne sente jamais 

La flamme sacrilege ! 



A FRAGMENT FROM 
CONTRE LES BUCHERONS DE LA FOR^T DE GASTIinE 

Adieu, vieille Foret, adieu tdtes sacrees, 

De tableaux et de fleurs en tout temps recouvrees, 

Maintenant le dedain des passans al teres — 

Qui brulez en I'Ete des rayons etheres. 

Sans plus trouver le frais de tes douces verdures ; 

Accuse tes meur triers, et leur dis injures ! 

Adieu chenes, couronne aux vaillans citoyens, 
Arbres de Jupiter, germes Dodoneens, 
Qui premiers aux humains donnates a repaitre ; 
Peuples vraiement ingrats, qui n'ont su reconnaitre 
Les biens re9us de vous ; peuples vraiement grossiers, 
De massacrer ainsi leurs p^res nourriciers ! ; 

277 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 



ODE 

Mignonne, allons voir si la Rose, 
Qui ce matin avail declose 

Sa robe de pourpre au Soleil, 
A point perdu cette vepree' 
Les plis de sa robe pourpree, 

Et son teint au votre pareil. 

Las ! voyez comme en un peu d'espace# 
Mignonne, elle a dessus la place 

Lcis, las, ses beautes laisse choir) 
O vraieraent maratre Nature, 
Puisqu' une telle fleur ne dure 

Que du matin jusqu' au soir \ 

Done, si vous me croyez, Mignonne, 
Tandis que vostre age fleuronne 

En sa plus verte nouveaute, 
Cueillez, cueillez votre jeunesse ; 
Comme k cette fleur, la vieillesse 

Fera ternir votre beaute. 



L'AUBEPIN 

Bel Aubepin fleurissant, 

Verdissant 
Le long de ce beau rivage, 
Tu es vetu jusqu' au bas 

Des longs bras 
D'un lambrunche sauvage. 

Deux camps de rouges fourmis 

Se sont mis 
En garnison sous ta souche : 
Dans les pertuis ^ de ton tronc 

Tout du long 
Les avettes ont leur couche. 

Le chantre Rossignolet 

Nouvelet, 
Courtisant sa bien-aimee, 
Pour ses amours all6ger, 

Vient loger 
Tous les ans en ta ramee, 

Sur ta cime il fait son nid 

Tout uni 
De mousse et de fine soie, 
Ou ses petits eclorront, 

Qui seront 
De mes mains la douce proie. 



^ Wild vine. ^ Holes. 
278 



• RONSARD AND THE ELIZABETHANS 

Or vis, gentil Aubepin, 

Vis sans fin, 
Vis sans que jamais tonnerre, 
Ou la coignee, ou les vents, 

Ou les temps 
Te puissent ruer par terre. 

LA ROSE 

Dieu te gard I'honneur printemps. 

Qui etends 
Tes beaux tresors sur la branche, 
Et qui decouvres au soleil 

Le vermeil 
De ta beaute naive et franche. , . . 

Prds de toi, sentant ton cdeur, 

Plein d'ardeur, 
Je fa9onne un vers dont la grclce 
Maugre les tristes Soeurs vivra, 

Et suivra 
Le long vol des ailes d'Horace. 

Les uns chanteront les oeillets 

Vermeillets, 
Ou du lis la fleur argentee, 
Ou celle qui s'est par les pres 

Diapres 
Du sang des princes enfantee. 

Mais moi, tant que chanter pourrai, 

Je louerai 
Tous jours en mes Odes la rose 
D'autant qu'elle porte le nom 

De renom 
De celle ou ma vie est enclose. 

A CASSANDREi 

La lune est coutumidre 

Renaitre tous les mois ; 
Mais, quand notre lumiere 

Sera morte une fois, 
Long temps sans reveiller 
Nous faudra sommeiller. 
Tandis que vivons ores, 

Un baiser donne-moi ; 
Donne-m'en mille encores ; 

Amour n'a point de loi ; 
A sa grajid' deit6 
Convient I'iniinite. 

^ This is an example of Ronsard's adaptation from the classics, and 
is imitated from Catullus. 

279 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

LA QUENOUILLE i 
Quenouille, de Pallas la compagne et I'ainie, 
Cher present que je porte a ma chere Marie, 
Afin de soulager I'ennui qu'ell'a de moi, 
Disant quelque chanson en filant dessur toi,^ 
Faisant piroiietter k son huis,^ amusee. 
Tout le jour son rouet et sa grosse fusee — 

Quenouille, je te mene ou je suis arrete, 
Je voudrais racheter par toi ma liberty. 
Tu ne viendras es mains d'une mignonne oisive. 
Qui ne fait qu'attifer* sa perruque lascive 
Et qui perd tout son temps a mirer et farder 
Sa face, a celle fin qu'on I'aille regarder ; 
Mais bien entre les mains d'une dispose ^ fiUe, 
Qui devide, qui coud, qui menage et qui file 
Avec ses deux sceurs pour tromper ses ennuis, 
L'Hiver devant le feu, I'Ete devant son huis. 

Aussi je ne voudrais que toi, Quenouille, faite 
En notre Vendomois (ou le peuple regrette 
Le jour qui passe en vain) allasses en Anjou 
Pour demeurer oisive et te rouiller au clou. 
Je te puis assurer que sa main delicate 
Filera dougement ^ quelque drap d'ecarlate. 
Qui si fin et si soiief "^ en sa laine sera, 
'. Que pour un jour de f^te un Roi le vetira. 

Suis-moi done, tu seras la plus que bien-venue, 
Quenouille, des deux bouts et grelette et menue,® 
Un peu grosse au miUeu ou la filace tient, 
Etreinte d'un ruban qui de Montoire^ vient, 
Aime-laine, aime-fil, aime-etaim,^° maisonnidre, 
Longue, Palladienne, enflee, chansonnidre ; 
Suis-moi, laisse G^uture, et allons a Bourgueil, 
Ou, Quenouille, on te doit recevoir d'un bon ceil : 
Car le petit present qu'un loyal ami donne. 
Passe des puissants Rois le Sceptre et la Couronne. 

: DE L'EPITAPHE D'ANDRE BLONDET 

Mais par-sur-tous I'homme, qui est semblable . , . 
D' esprit aux Dieux, est le plus miserable ; 
Etjla raison qui vient divinement, 
Lui est vendue un peu trop cherement ; 
Car nous I'avons a condition d'etre 
Tres-malheureux dds I'heure de notre etre. . . , 
Bref, mal sur mal nous vient de tous cotes, 
Et^seulement nous ne sommes pas domptes . . , 
A tout^e moins^^si^nature honorable 

^ This is also an adaptation from Theocritus 

2 On thee, ^ house-door, * prink out, ^ deft, ^ delicately, ^ soft, ^ thin 
and slender, ^ a place in the Vendomois, ^^ carded wool. 

280 



RONSARD AND THE ELIZABETHANS 

Eut ordonne d'arret irrevocable 

Que les mechants mourraient tant seulement, 

Vivants les bons perpetuellement, 

Quelque comfort aurait notre misere, 

Et la nature a bon droit serait mere. 

Mais quand on voit les mechants si longtemps 

Vivre gaillards au terme de cent ans 

Sans amender leur malice premiere, 

Et quand on voit les bons ne vivre gudre, 

L'humanite de I'homme, soucieux 

De s'enquerir, en accuse les cieux. 

Las ! qui verrait dans un gras labourage 
Tomber du ciel le malheureux orage. 
Qui d'une grele et d'un vent jusqu'au fond 
Perdrait les bles qui, ja grandets, se font 
Tons herisses d'epis, ou la semence 
A se former a quatre rangs commence 
Et laisserait seulement dans les champs 
La noire yvraye, et les chardons tranchants, 
La ronce aigiie, et la mordante 6pine 
Qui sur le bl6 miserable domine ; 
Qui est celui, tant soit constant de coeur. 
Qui n'accusat la celeste rigueur, 
Et ne branlat contre le ciel la tete, 
D'avoir rue une telle tempete ? 

DE L'HYMNE A LA MORT 

Moi done, Masures cher, qui de longtemps sais bien 
Qu'au sommet de Parnasse on ne trouve plus rien 
Pour etancher la soif d'une gorge alteree, 
Je m'en vais decouvrir quelque source sacree 
D'un ruisseau non touche, qui murmurant s'enfuit 
Dedans un beau verger loin de gens et de bruit ; 
Source que le soleil n'aura jamais connue. 
Que les oiseaux du ciel de leur bouche cornue 
N'auront jamais souillee, et ou les pastoureaux 
N'auront jamais conduit les pieds de leurs taureaux 
Je boirai tout mon saoul de cette onde pucelle, 
Et puis je chanter ai quelque chanson nouvelle, 
Dont les accords seront peut-etre si tres-doux 
Que les si^cles voudront les redire apres nous . . - 
Car il me plait pour toi de faire ici ramer 
Mes propres avirons dessus ma propre mer, 
Et de voler au ciel par une voie etrange, 
Te chantant de la Mort la non-dite louange. 

ELEGIE 

Six ans etaient coules, et la septieme annee 
Etait presque entidre en ses pas retournee, 
Quand loin d' affection, de desir et d' amour, 
En pure liberte je passais tout le jour, 
Et franc de tout souci qui les ames devore, 

281 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Je dormais des le soir jusqu'au point de I'Aurore : 
Car seul maitre de moi j'allais, plein de loisir, 
Ou le pied me portait, conduit de mon desir, 
Ayant tousjours es mains, pour me servir de guide, 
Aristote ou Platon, ou le docte Euripide, 
Mes bons hotes muets qui ne fachent jamais : 
Ainsi que je les prends, ajnsi je les remets ; 
O douce compagnie et utile et honnete! 
Un autre en caquetant m'etourdirait la tete 

Puis du livre ennuye, je regardais les fleurs, 
Fucilles, tiges, rameaux, especes, et couleurb, 
Et I'entrecoupement de leurs formes diverses, 
Peintes de cent fa9ons, jaunes, rouges et perses, 
Ne me pouvant saouler, ainsi qu'en un tableau, 
D'admirer la Nature et ce qu'elle a de beau ; 
Et de dire en parlant aux fleurettes ecloses : 
Celui est presque Dieu qui connait toutes choses, 
Eloigne du vulgaire, et loin des courtisans, 
De fraude et de malice, impudents artisans. 
Tantot j'errais seulet par les forets sauvages 
Sur les bords enjonches des peintures rivages. 
Tantot par les rochers recules et deserts, 
Tantot par les taillis, verte maison des cerfs 

J'aimais le cours suivi d'une longue rividre, 

Et voir onde sur onde allonger sa carridre, 

Et flot a I'autre flot en roulant s'attacher, 

Et, pendu sur le bord, me plaisoit d'y pecher ; 

Etant plus rejoui d'une chasse muette 

Troubler des ecailles la demeure secrette, 

Tirer avec la ligne, en tremblant emporte, 

Le credule poisson pris a I'haim apate, 

Qu'un grand Prince n'est aise ayant pris a la chasse 

Un cerf, qu'en haletant tout un jour il pourchasse. . 

Or le plus de mon bien pour decevoir ma peine, 
C'est de boire a longs traits les eaux de la fontaine 
Qui de vostre beau nom se brave, et, en courant 
Par les pres, vos honneurs va tousjours murmurant, 
Et la Reine se dit des eaux de la contree : 
Tant vaut le gentil soin d'une Muse sacree. 
Qui pent vaincre la Mort et les sorts inconstants 
Sinon pour jamais, au moins pour un longtemps. 

La couche dessus I'herbe, en mes discours je pense 
Que pour aimer beaucoup j'ai peu de recompense, 
Et que mettre son cceur aux Dames si avant, 
C'est vouloir peindre en I'onde et arreter le vent ; 
M'assurant toutefois, qu'alors que le vieil age 
Aura comme un sorcier change votre visage, 
Et lorsque vos cheveux deviendront argentes, 
Et que vos yeux d'Amour ne seront plus hantes, 
Que toujours vous aurez, si quelque soin vous touche, 
En I'esprit mes ecrits, mon nom en votre bouche. 

282 



RONSARD AND THE ELIZABETHANS 

LE TOMBEAU DE MARGUERITE DE VALOIS 

Comme les herbes fleuries 
Sont les honneurs des prairies, 
Et des pres les ruisselets, 
De Torme la vigne aimee, 
Des bocages la ramee, 
Des champs les bles nouvelets, 

Ainsi tu fus, 6 Princesse 
(Ainsi plus tot, 6 Deesse), 
Tu fus la perle et I'honneur 
Des Princesses de notre age, 
Soit en force de courage 
Ou soit en royal bonheur. ' 

II ne faut point qu'on te fasso 
Un sepulchre qui embrasse 
Mille termes en un rond 
Pompeux d'ouvrages antiques, 
Et brave en piliers doriques ... 

Vous, Pcisteurs, que la Garonne 
t)'un demi-tour environne, 
Au milieu de vos pres verts, 
Faites sa tombe nouvelle, 
Et gravez I'herbe sus elle 
Du long cercle de ces vers : 

Icy la Reine sommeille, 
Des Reines la nonpareille, 
Qui si doucement chanta ; 
Cest la Reine Marguerite, 
La plus belle fieur d'elite 
Qu'onques I'Aurore enfanta. 

Puis sonnez vos cornemuses, 
Et menez au bal les Muses 
En un cerne tout-autour, 
Soit aux jours de la froidure, 
Ou quand la jeune verdure 
Fera son nouveau retour. 

Aux rais connus de la Lune 
Assemblez sous la nuit brune 
Vos Naiades et vos Dieux, 
Et avec vos Dryades 
Donnez-lui dix mille aubades 
Du flageol melodieux. . . . 

Dites a vos brebettes : 
Fuyez-vous-en, camusettes, 
Gagnez I'ombre de ces bois ; 
Ne broutez en cette pree, 
Toute I'herbe en est sacree 
A la Nymphe de Valois. 
283 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Dites-leur : Troupes mignonnes. 
Que vos liqueurs seraient bonnes 
Si leur douceur egalait 
La douceur de sa parole, 
Lors que sa voix douce et moUe 
Plus douce que miel coulait ! . . . 

Ombragez d'herbes la terre, 
Tapissez-la de lierre, 
Plantez un cypres aussi ; 
Et notez dedans a force 
Sur la noiiailleuse ecorce 
Derechef ces vers ici. . . 

Semez apres mille roses, 
Mille fleurettes decloses ; 
Versez du miel et du lait ; 
Et pour annuel office, 
Repandez en sacrifice 
Le sang d'un blanc agnelet. . . , 

Faites encore a sa gloire 
(Pour allonger sa memoire) 
Mille jeux et mille ebats : 
Vostre Reine sainte et grande 
Du haut Ciel vous le commande, 
Pasteurs, n'y faillez done pas. 

16, 16, Marguerite, 
Soit que ton esprit habite 
Sur la nue, ou dans les champs 
Que le long oubli couronne — 
Oy ma Lyre qui te sonne, 
Et favorise mes chants ! 

We will add to these poems of Ronsard's a few of Joachim 
Du Bellay's, and one example of Remy Belleau. The most 
exquisite of Du Bellay's verses, " Les Vanneurs," has been 
cited in another volume/ and was, long ago, made known 
to us by Pater in his ' ' Essays on the Renaissance' ' . It therefore 
seems redundant to repeat it. But the same qualities, the 
same silvery atmosphere by which it dehghts us, give the tone 
to the rest of his work. The sweep and the swirl of the scythe, 
the swaying and rippHng of ripe corn before the wind, all 
the sights and sounds of the harvest, possess the same charm 
for Du Bellay as water possessed for Ronsard. The sower, 
the gleaner, the reaper, and the images they evoke, constantly 
recur in his pages, even when he is writing about old Rome — 
as in this Sonnet from " Les Antiquites." 

^ ** Women and Men of the French Renaissance." 
284 



RONSARD AND THE ELIZABETHANS 

Comme le champ seme en verdure foisonne, 
De verdure se hausse en tuyau verdissant, 
De tuyau se herisse en epi florissant ; 
D'epi jaunit en grain que le chaud assaisonne ; 
Et comme en la saison le rustique moissonne 
Les ondoyants cheveux du sillon blondissant, 
Les met d'ordre en javelle, et du ble jaunissant 
Sur le champs depouille mille gerbes fa9onne ; 
Ainsi de peu a peu crut 1' Empire Remain, 
Tant qu'il fut depouille par la Barbare main, 
Qui ne laissa de lui que ces marques antiques. 
Que chacun va pillant : comme on voit le glaneur 
Cheminant pas a pas recueillir les reliques 
De ce que va tombant apres le moissonneur. 

The dominant note of Du Bellay's poetry is an elegant 
simplicity. His elegance is more natural than Ronsard's, 
whether he is writing about the ruins of the Past, or, as here, 
about the emotions of the Present — 

Votre douceur, votre humble privaut^, 
Et votre esprit plus beau que la beaut6, 
Perfections d'un chacun estimees, 
Mais plus de moi que tout autre aimees. 
Par un instinct naturel qui me fait 
Connaitre en vous de vous le plus parfait. 

What can be more harmonious than this, written to a 
fellow-poet — 

L'amour se nourrit de pleurs 
Et les abeilles de fleurs ; 
Les pres aiment la rosee, 
Phebus aime les neuf Soeurs, 
Et nous aimons les douceurs 
Dont ta Muse est arrosee. 

But his gift is at its best when he is describing what is 
homely and familiar and lending it a kind of classic grace — 
for instance, in his epitaph on his little dead dog who lives 
again in his verse — 

EPITAPHE D'UN PETIT CHIEN 

Dessous cette motte^ verte, 
De lis et roses couverte. 
Git le petit Peloton — 
De qui le poil foleton 
Frisait d'une toison blanche 
Le dos, le ventre, et la hanche. 
Son nez camard, ses gros yeux 

1 Heap. 
285 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Qui n*6taient point chassieux, 

Sa longue oreille velue 

D'une soie crepelue, 

Sa queue au petit tloquet 

Semblant un petit bouquet. . . . 

Son exercice ordinaire 

£toit de japper et braire, 

Courir en haut et en bas, 

Et faire cent mille ebats 

Tons etranges et farouches, 

Et n'avait guerre qu'aux mouches, 

Qui luy faisaient maint tourment. 

Mais Peloton dextrement 

Leur rendait bien la pareille. . 

Peloton ne caressait 
Sinon ceux qu'il connaissait, 
Et n'eut pas voulu repaitre 
D'autre main que de son maitre, 
Qu'il allait tousjours suivant : :. 

Quelquefois marchait devant, 
Faisant ne sais quelle fete 
D'un gai branlement de tdte. 

Mon Dieu, quel plaisir c'etait, 
Quand Peloton se grattait, 
Faisant tinter sa sonnet te 
Avec sa tete folette ! 
Quel plaisir, quand Peloton 
Cheminait sur un baton, 
Ou coifie d'un petit linge, 
Assis comme un petit singe, 
Se tenait mignardelet 
D'un maintien damoiselet ! 
Las 1 mais ce doux passe temps 
Ne nous dura pas longtemps : 
Car la mort, ayant envie 
Sur raise de notre \de. 
Envoy a devers Pluton 
Notre petit Peloton, 
Qui maintenant se pourmene 
Parmi ceste ombreuse plaine 
Dont nul ne revient vers nous. 

Let us close with Remy Belleau's " Avril," for it is like a 
light farewell from the Graces. Before we can salute them 
they have gone, floated past us on a shining shower, and left 
us regretful behind them. 

Avril, I'honneur et des bois 

Et des mois : 
Avril, la douce esperance 
Des fruits qui, sous le coton 

Du bouton, 
Nourrissent leur jeune enfance ; 
286 



RONSARD AND THE ELIZABETHANS 

Avril, I'honneur des pres verts 

Jaunes, pers, 
Qui d'une humeur bigarree, 
Emaillent de mille fleurs 

De couleurs, 
Leur parure diaprec ; . . « 

Avril, c'est ta douce main 

Qui, du sein 
De la nature, desserre 
Une moisson de senteurs 

Et de fleurs, 
Embaumant I'air et la terra ; . . • 

Avril la grace, et le ris 

De Cypris, 
Le flair et la douce haleine ; 
Avril, le parfum des dieux. 

Qui, des cieux, 
Sentent I'odeur de la plaine ; 

C'est toi, courtois et gentil, 

Qui d'exil 
Retires ces passag^res, 
Ces hirondelles qui vont, 

Et qui sont 
Du printemps les messag^res, 

L'aubepine et I'aiglantin, 

Et le thym, 
L'oeillet, le lis, et les roses, 
En ceste belle saison, 

A foison, 
Montrent leurs robes ecloses. . . , 

Tu vois, en ce temps nouveau 

L'essaim beau 
De ces pillardes avettes^ 
Voleter de fleur en fleur 

Pour I'odeur 
Qu'ils mussent en leurs cuissettes.^ 

Mai vantera ses fraicheurs, 

Ses fruits murs, 
Et la seconde rosee. 
La manne et le sucre doux, 

Le miel roux, 
Dont sa grace est arrosee. 

Mais moi je donne ma voix 

A ce mois 
Qui prend le surnom de celle 
Qui, de I'ecumeuse mer, 

. Vit germer 
Sa naissance maternelle. 

^ Bees. ^ Store in their little thighs. 

287 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

Belleau's lines were to have been the last of those here 
spoken by the Pleiade. And yet as we write them, Ronsard's 
spirit, courtly and confident, rises up in protest. He is right 
— the final word should be his. Where is he ? In that wood- 
land grave — the " sepulchre " which he chose for himself and 
begged posterity to make for him ? 

Et vous for^ts et ondes 
Par ces pres vagabondes, 
Et vous rives et bois, 

Oyez ma voix. . • « 

Je defends quon me rompe 
Le marbre, pour la pompe 
De vouloir mon Tombeau 
Batir plus beau. 

Mais bien je veux q'un arbre 
M'ombrage au lieu d'un marbre— 
Arbre qui soit couvert 
Tou jours de vert. 

Tout a I'entour I'emmure 
L'herbe et I'eau qui murmure, 
L'un toujours verdoyant, 

L'autre ondoyant. . . . 

Dessus moi, qui k Theure 
Serai par la demeure 

Ou les heureux Esprits 'f 

Ont leur pourpris.^ 

There, in that Isle of the Blest, which they were so well 
fitted to inhabit, let us leave the happy shades of Ronsard and 
the Pleiade. Supreme grace was the gift that the gods had 
given them. And by that grace they will live — not only in 
the meadows of Elysium. 

^ Dwelling-place. 



288 



CHAPTER XIV 

Catherine and the Arts 



289 u 



AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 



The French Renaissance — Mrs. Pattison, 

Vie de PhiUbert de I'Orme — Vachon. 

Phihbert de TOrme — Reginald Blomfield. 

Biographical Preface to CEuvres de Palissy — A natole France. 

Lettres de Catherine de' Medici. 

Histoire Universelle — D'AubignS. 

Memoirs de Tavannes. 

Journal de Pierre TEstoille. 

Journal de I'an 1562 — Revue RHrospecHve. 

Le Fort inexpugnable de I'honneur f6minin — Frangois Billon. 

Femmes illustres — Brantome. 

Femmes de la Renaissance — Maulde de la Clavidre. 

Catherine de M6dicis — Henri Bouchot. 

Histoire de France — Martin. 



290 



CHAPTER XIV 

Catherine and the Arts 

** TN sooth he sorely needeth spectacles who asserteth 
J[ that, in this valley of shadows, men without women 
would ever meet with any kind of friendship." So writes 
the old Euphuist, Billon, whose " Inexpugnable Fort de 
I'honneur du sexe f^minin," a strange mixture of ingenuity, 
sound sense, and hyperbole, was dedicated to the women 
at whose lives we have been looking — Catherine de' Medici, 
Jeanne de Navarre, Marguerite de Berri et Savoie. From 
the literary point of view the book is little more than a 
curious Court toy, but its real interest lies in the unconscious 
testimony it bears to the change in the position of women. 
Anne de Bretagne may be said to have marked the end of the 
old order of the mediaeval woman — and Marguerite d'Angou- 
leme may equally be called the initiator of the new order, 
the first of the modem women. Under the code of the past, 
there was practically no alternative between marriage and a 
nunnery ; the unmarried woman, outside convent walls, 
was a disgraced creature. But Billon already informs us that 
the unmarried state " can only be excellently praiseworthy, 
and, indeed, surpasses all other." He inveighs against the 
sin of parents in arranging marriages for their daughters with 
'' quelque gros animal comma un PorCySeulementvetudesoie'' ; 
he tells us ecstatically that every invention is due to woman- 
kind, from the days when Minerva invented oil and a lady 
" of the Ancients " invented riddles, seven hundred and forty 
years before Christ — " the Divine Man who answered the 
Riddle of Life once and for all." It must be added that these 
Renaissance reflections are followed by the riddle itself, and 
that it does not add any great glory to the sex. " Who," 
it asks, " was the parent possessing twelve deformed children, 
mortal and yet immortal ? " And the answer, which even 
a man might guess, is " Time, the father of the months." 
But the insistence on the importance of woman, the modern 

^91 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

note of Billon's utterance, is no mere formula of sycophancy, but 
the expression of a significant fact. Woman had always been 
there ; women now came into existence, and modern society 
was born. There was, in the sixteenth century in France, a 
movement for Women's Rights not unhke that in our own 
day, though expressed in more primitive language. Young 
women urged each other not to be over-domestic, to cultivate 
their minds, and to be no longer subject to men. A certain 
erudite lady called HeHsienne of Picardy confuted " aussi 
plaisammement " the *' ironiques raisons " of a Conservative 
gentleman who laid down the law that women ought to meddle 
with nothing but spinning. Heavy repartees, charged with 
learning, flew between the two camps, and women tried to 
prove their claims by their achievements. They wrote 
rhymes, not so much, says Billon, " to taste the fruit of honour, 
but to make dunderheads understand that woman's mind 
and her intellectual gifts in no way proceed from man — souls 
being neither masculine nor feminine." The fact that she 
had a brain and could be educated at all was new to the world, 
and each fresh bluestocking was a prodigy. Anne Tallon 
of Macon wrote letters " more than Ciceronian." Madame 
de Martinhuile was a peerless musician and composer ; Madame 
d'Estampes " knew all the history of France by heart," and 
Billon adds that this was what especially attracted Francois I, 
though he had the grace to conclude with " Id je vous attends, 
Causeurs,^^ as if he knew how preposterous was his statement. 
As for the ladies of Lyons and their little coterie of blue-stock- 
ings, the world had never seen such poetesses. "Oh 
daughter of the very Christian Phoenix ! " was one author's 
most moderate mode of addressing a well-educated princess, 
and his Euphuistic ecstasy at the growing fame of women 
was only the voice of his generation. 

Their increasing importance had considerable effect upon 
the arts, their especial domain. Their taste, their patronage, 
even their vanity and love of novelty, gave a fresh impetus 
to sculpture and architecture and painting — particularly the 
painting of their portraits. And the minor arts may be said 
to have been created by them. For social needs demanded 
fresh luxuries and refinements. Castles became dweUing- 
houses ; new habits required new apphances, more elegant 
ornamentation ; and the need felt by one great lady to out- 
shine another provided the stimulus of competition as well 
as of handsome payment. Perhaps such a state of things 

392 



CATHERINE AND THE ARTS 

promoted the decadence of art which prevailed in the time 
of Catherine, or perhaps the greater traditions of the earUer 
days had exhausted themselves and the reign of the crafts 
had in due course begun. Be that as it may, the last half of 
the century was debased ; ingenuity was substituted for ideas 
and art was degenerating into artifice ; was becoming a rich 
mass of detail, bewildering in its perfection. " The end of the 
world is threatened when the period and perfection of all 
the arts is reached. It seems as if nothing could be added to 
man's inventions." So says a critic of that age whose words 
do not only apply to his own time. He hits the nail on the 
head. The art of the day lacked the dignity of imagination 
and consisted of elaborate inventions allowing no vistas for 
the spirit. 

And it was an art which lent itself to be imitated. Another 
writer of the period foresaw the danger, and towards the end 
of the century already complains of cheap reproductions — 
lamenting because the figures carefully wrought by sculptors 
now " fell into the hands of tradesmen who cast them into 
moulds and turned them out in such quantities that eventually 
no one recognized either the creator or his work." In those 
happy days, a pedlar was imprisoned and whipped because he 
had hawked a basket of common crucifixes all of one pattern 
through the streets of Toulouse. "It were better that one 
man, or a very few, made their livelihood by some art, work- 
ing honestly, than a great number of men, who injure one 
another so much by competition that they cannot earn their 
daily bread except by profaning the arts, and leaving things 
half finished." Thus did machinery and commerce cast their 
sordid shadows before them. 

//The one art which demands mathematical definiteness, 
^' which corresponded also to the social developments of the time, 
was the only big art which flourished. Architecture seemed 
to be the expression of all that was then best aesthetically. 
As women became prominent and intercourse more civilized, 
the feudal castle grew impossible and an adequate house a 
necessity. When talk and study became ends in themselves, 
drawing-rooms and libraries were requisite ; and when walls 
served for more varied purposes than for shelter and seclusion, 
when the display of men's prowess, so long the main diversion 
of women, was replaced by music and play-acting, all manner 
of embellishments and ingenuities were needful. An enthu- 
siasm for building possessed France : ""la maladie de bdtirt'' 

293 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

old Tavannes calls it. He says that it ought to be controlled ; 
that its fashions changed every day because " the French 
were as much bent on change in their houses as in their dresses;" 
that many sighed in vain to have their money back and rebuild 
their mansions more modishly. It is curious to find how the 
Chateaux of Francois I, so much admired by their own age 
and by ours, were condemned by the connoisseurs who lived 
thirty years after their construction. " Fontainebleau "—says 
one of these — " is a confusion, and its only beautiful feature 
is the great Courtyard ; the second Court has no architecture, ' 
the third part is oval, triangular, square, altogether imperfect." 
What would Phihbert de I'Orme, once Master of the Works 
there, have said to such an indictment, or to the same critic's 
condemnation of the Tuileries, which the world regarded as 
his masterpiece ? And what would the makers of the Louvre, 
Pierre Lescot and BuUant, have rejoined ? 

Architecture was the one art about which Catherine de' 
Medici was keen. This may seem a bold thing to say in face 
of the common belief in her strong aesthetic tastes — her 
heritage from the Medici. But a love of luxury can look 
wonderfully like a love of beauty. Catherine cared much for 
ingenuity, for novelty, for the possession of things that were 
unique, but she had not the feelings of an artist, no real con- 
ception to guide her. She wished more for ornament and 
splendour, for pottery, for enamels, for jewellery, than for 
any larger work of art. She also liked to have many pictures 
of herself, and when, in middle age, she returned to Lyons, 
where she had gone in her youth at the time of her husband's 
coronation, she visited the studio of Corneille de la Haye and 
looked at the portraits he had then taken of her and all her 
family. But it was not for art's sake that she did so. "So 
delighted was she with the painting that she could not take 
her eyes off it." " Cousin," she said to the Due de Nemours 
who was with her, " I think that you can well remember the 
time when this was done, and you can judge better than any- 
one in this company, you who saw me thus, if I was considered 
to be what you report, and if I was like the woman here." 
Nor was there much question of beauty when she sent her 
commands to Court painters and sculptors. Sometimes 
they are contained in curt business notes, like the one to her 
ambassador at Rome, in which she bids him take care that 
her orders to Michael Angelo for a statue of Henri II are 
executed without delay. " Please see to it," she writes, " the 

294 



CATHERINE AND THE ARTS 

more so as I hear that he who has made it is very subject 
to apoplexy, and supposing he had another attack and died, 
I am told that there is no man in Christendom who could 
execute his design." Her letters dictate every detail of his 
work to the artist in the arrogant fashion of those days. 
She is annoyed that the effigies of her husband and son have 
not yet been set up. "Be sure" (she says to their creator) 
" that you make them as much Hke Nature as you can — in 
the royal robes as is the custom — and I should like to remind 
you to take heed and do what is usual in the case of warlike 
and conquering kings — the which always lie with their hands 
upraised to show that they have not been idle. Of all this 
you will please send me pictures at once." Even where 
architecture was concerned, she showed no real taste and 
spoiled De I'Orme's fine original design for the Chateau of 
St. Maur-les-Fosses by demanding a graceless and monotonous 
fagade, disfigured by an exaggerated pediment. 

Like all her contemporaries, she was a collector — more from 
/competition with others than from the love of what she 
collected. " I hear " — she says to Cardinal Tournon — " that 
the Doctor who has that lovely Adonis is very anxious to sell 
it and cannot find a purchaser. Pray manage to put out 
feelers as if on your own behalf and discover if he really 
wishes to sell it and for how much. And he told me that there 
was some benefice he wanted. Find out all about it without 
his knowing that you are doing so for us." The merchant's 
daughter came out in the hard bargains that she drove, of 
which this was no single instance. When her cousin, the great 
book-collector, the Marechal Strozzi, died, she at once made 
a bid for his precious library and antiquities, and she went off 
with the treasure promising his son ample payment. But 
he never received a penny from her, and he could not get any 
compensation. Nor did the heirs of her cousin, Hippolyte 
d'Este, the love of her first youth, fare much better at her 
hands ; she sued them for his inheritance twenty-two years 
after his death, and came off victorious with twenty thousand 
crowns and all his stones and jewels. There was, indeed, 
no length to which her love of luxury did not run. She had 
heard that the wife of her Treasurer possessed the most 
sumptuous furniture, and making a pretext of the lady's 
illness, she went to pay her a visit. But while she dispensed 
sympathy, her eye fell upon a seat with a crimson covering 
embroidered with golden lilies, richer than any of her own. 

295 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

She departed with many suave courtesies — and lost no time 
in charging the unconscious lady's husband with official 
dishonesty, for which he was condemned to death. 

The magnificence of the Court gave a false impression of 
good taste. Numbers of painters, jewellers, goldsmiths and 
other craftsmen lived and worked upon the premises and 
formed guilds, each governed by adamantine laws. The 
first artists designed the Court dresses, and as Catherine 
kept near fifty ladies and paid all their expenses, her bills 
for their wardrobe must have been high. The best ones were 
wrought with gold and precious stones ; and so heavy were 
they on state occasions that brides had to be carried to Church 
and princesses could often hardly stand for the monumental 
robes that walled them in. We have an account of the Princess 
Margot, bowed beneath a weight of real gold tissue, a golden 
wig upon her head, to provide which two fair-haired lackeys 
were shorn every week. And we can evoke Catherine herself, 
bewigged, perfumed, sumptuous yet austere, in her persistent 
widow's black relieved by costly furs and jewels, as she holds 
a court levee, or receives her Lords and Captains according to 
accepted etiquette — kissing the greater gentlemen on the cheek 
while she puts her arm round their necks, and touching the 
lesser ones on the shoulder. Universal embracing became 
the fashion and manners were as extravagant as dress. " Look 
at us," says Tavannes, " we mock barbarians and savages for 
their customs, without reflecting that we have habits which are 
quite as absurd and inane. We should think it barbarous 
in other nations if they went forth to murder for a foolish 
word, just as we do in France. What folly that we have to 
kiss all the women that we meet, and that they kiss every- 
one indifferently! . . . Nor are our clothes and ornaments 
less ridiculous ; the square caps of the lawyers, the slashes, 
the dress-pads, the wigs, and numberless other imbecilities." 

All this meant affectation, a demoralizing atmosphere for 
art. It also meant a growing and elaborate society. The 
arts that really flourished then were social. The only school 
of painting worth considering at this late epoch was the school 
of portrait-painters — of Francois Clouet and Corneille de Lyon 
(or de la Haye), of Dumoustier and Scipion, and of all their 
atelier imitators, men and women, who made duplicates of 
their productions. But the masterpieces of Clouet, in his 
day, were not only considered as works of art, they were 
looked on in great measure as a social necessity, at a time 

296 



CATHERINE AND THE ARTS 

when personal communication was difficult and cheap repro- 
ductions were undreamed of. Many of the royal portraits, 
too, were essential for political purposes — for marriages, for 
compliment, for diplomacy — and were judged by their practical 
importance. As far as sculpture was concerned, the case was 
much the same. So long as the artist devoted himself to 
busts or to statues for tombs, the result was admirable and 
hfe-Hke. Germain Pilon's bust of Henri II, his " gtsant " (or 
dead figure) of the same monarch, his monument of Birague ; 
Barth61my Prieur's bust of De Thou, his sepulchral statues 
of the Chabots, are vital pieces of work. But as soon as 
imagination comes into play, it is a different matter. Germain 
Pilon was the most esteemed sculptor of his day, but he is 
little more than a sculptor-laureate, graceful, heartless, compli- 
mentary. His three Graces upholding the urn destined to 
contain the King's heart is a delicious piece of courtly distinc- 
tion, an elegantly turned Latin distich translated into stone. 
The Graces are conscious Court beauties with the germ of 
decadence in their very charm. The Queen's Coiffeur has 
arranged the carelessness of their hair, a State Costumiere their 
classical folds, and we sympathize with the good old eighteenth- 
century Prior of Bess6 who threw down into a well a copy of 
this work, then in the possession of his Priory, because he 
found existence disturbed by the presence of these mundane 
charmers. It was not for nothing that Pilon had worked at 
Anet and felt the sway of Primaticcio ; that he had toiled at 
Paris in " the Chapel of the Jewellers " at " piercing open- 
work friezes of chestnut wood, to be formed out of coronals, 
cups and hhes, enlaced with palms and other enrichments." 
He was, indeed, a master of ornamentation, whether he were 
working upon " the Great Clock of Paris," for which in the 
true Renaissance spirit he carved " a Holy Ghost crowned 
with laurels ; " or helping Ronsard to arrange a pageant for 
Charles IX's coronation. And when that monarch made him 
Coiner to the Crown, he provided Pilon with the dehcate work 
that exactly suited his fancy. For his art was not a great art, 
an art with an outlook. It was rather the end of a tradition 
that had lost its sap and its strength. Here, when you 
ask for imagination you get conceits, and if you brush aside 
the fantastic furbelows, you find there is no human form 
beneath. It is, we must repeat, by their skill in portraiture 
that men like Germain Pilon live. 
We have already glanced at Architecture and seen how 

297 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

its growth corresponded to social development. And the 
other arts which prospered were the minor ones, attendant 
on the greater — the arts of ornamentation which should 
be classed as crafts. The two great ornamentors of 
Catherine's time are Leonard Limousin and Bernard Palissy. 
Limousin was a generic name for Leonard and Martin, who 
first bore it, and then for their collaborators, the family of 
P^nicaud and that of the Courts (who included a craftswoman, 
Suzanne) and for other artificers of Limoges, who produced 
their wonderful irridescent plates and vessels, blazoned with 
accurate portraits, or with subjects from the fashionable 
Court mythology. These men guarded the secret of their 
enamel as jealously as the Delia Robbias guarded theirs, 
and expended all their energy in improving it. Their lives 
lay in their achievements ; they are written in the Galerie 
d'ApoUon in the Louvre, in countless other collections of 
their ware, evoking, as we stand and look at it, an atmo- 
sphere of wealth and ceremony, a vision of Catherine amid her 
Squadron of fictitious Junos and Minervas. It affects 
us precisely as Bran tome does, by a kind of remote curiosity, 
in turn amused and repelled — by anything, in short, but our 
sympathies. It seems to us splendid yet joyless, an art with- 
out blood in it — the fitting emblem of a pleasure-loving but 
indifferent generation. 

Bernard Palissy is a different matter. He was a great 
thinker, a strenuous seeker, who tried to compel Nature's 
secrets from her and translated them into terms of art. He 
imitated her forms — her insects, her fish, her reptiles, her 
stones — as closely as naturalist or geologist could wish for the 
purposes of study. He collected fossils and investigated 
chemical laws ; he evolved a new system of agriculture ; he 
made his own persistent researches about the properties of 
earth and water ; he was, as it were, consumed by a passion 
for Nature — as patient as that of Darwin, as vehement as 
a soldier in battle. Bent upon discovering processes, he 
thought he was working for art when he was really toihng 
for science. The results of his labour — his pottery and fish and 
plants and reptiles in enamel, are indeed rather curious than 
pleasing, their very character depending upon a kind of 
accurate realism ; and they prove him to be not an artist 
but — what he really was — a man of science. 

And this brings us to the truth, it gives us the key of his 
generation. It was not artistic, but scientific. Its atmo- 

298 



CATHERINE AND THE ARTS 

sphere is dry and scintillating ; it was critical and not creative, 
full of active curiosity, devoid of enthusiasm. In so far it 
was like our own age, that there was much appreciation of 
great Art without the power of producing it. The Renais- 
sance had reacted upon itself ; it had sent men back to Nature, 
and they brought a fresh eye for her significance ; it gave them 
a thirst for positive knowledge of every kind. Catherine herself, 
we must repeat, was an esprit positif, a clever mathematician, 
essentially the woman of science, impartial yet full of curiosity, 
with a mind that stuck at no consequences. She was, it is 
true, superstitious, and cherished a firm belief in the black arts. 
As for her faith in astrologers, that was part of her faith in 
science, of which astrology was then an acknowledged branch. 
But she did not stop here. She consulted sorcerers and 
alchemists, and acted on their prognostications. It was to 
the house of one of these men that she repaired when she was 
anxious about the Dauphin Frangois' health, and here that 
she breathlessly watched a doll, dressed like the prince, walk 
once round a table and then fall — by which sign she knew 
that her son had but twelve months to live. Nor was she 
making any pretence when, at the advent of his last illness, 
she accused the Guises of causing the calamity by magic. 
But such superstitions were of her generation, perhaps of her 
ItaHan blood, and they did not really affect her strong scientific 
tendencies. 

Wherever we turn, we are confronted by the same facts. 
Art was still the natural language by which men expressed 
thought and knowledge, because science was as yet only 
half-born ; but if we look into their lives, it was the scientific 
spirit that governed them and made their art unsatisfactory. 
Limousin and his fellow-craftsmen were all concentrated upon 
processes, upon making fresh discoveries. And Philibert de 
I'Orme, as his biographer, Mr. Blomfield, points out, was, if 
we go beneath the surface, a greater engineer than artist. 
" His strength, in fact " (says this writer) "lay in mechanical 
invention ; " there was *' too much reliance on knowledge 
rather than imagination." And he instances De I'Orme's 
introduction of the built-up framing of roofs, or of the 
" French order " of pillars, the joints of whose shafts were 
covered with bands of ornamentation, an ingenious and un- 
beautiful conception, worthier of a mechanician than an 
artist. One of his greatest triumphs was as Superintendent 
of the Royal Fortifications, when he saved the besieged port 

299 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

of Brest by placing imitation wooden cannons and numbers 
of men without pikes well in sight of the foe. And his book 
" r Architecture " is illumined by his love of nature and minute 
observation of her ways, by his remarks upon the architecture 
of shells, his reverence before all her works. He and Palissy 
may be taken as typical men of their time, though Palissy, 
both in thought and character, was a stronger type than 
De rOrme. And it is a striking fact that both of them were 
of the Huguenots. This is no accidental coincidence. If 
Protestantism made against art and all the temptations of 
beauty, it was not so with science. Scientific thought was 
really the logical outcome of a rehgion that went to the roots 
of things, that referred to original sources and tried to abolish 
superstition. In later days, science and rehgion parted company, 
but in those early times, before they had discovered they were 
hostile, the Huguenot atmosphere was favourable to the 
acquisition of truth and the assertion of any form of human 
responsibility. 

We have chronicled elsewhere the chief events in the life of 
Philibert de FOrme,^ which, indeed, consisted mainly of the 
various changes in his work. He was the son of fairly well- 
to-do tradespeople at Lyons. As a boy he went to Rome, 
and at fifteen years old he had two hundred men working tinder 
him. His good fortune began one day when he was making 
some excavations and a certain Bishop, passing by, stopped 
to watch and became interested in him. Paul III gave him 
a commission in Calabria, but in 1536, the Du Bellays persuaded 
him to return to France. He worked in Lyons, he was made 
Superintendent of Architecture in Brittany, and then, in 
I545j Superintendent of the Royal Fortifications. In this 
office he was bitterly disliked, because he constantly exposed 
and tried to reform the abuses that had hitherto been prac- 
tised. Perhaps an overbearing personality had also some- 
thing to do with it, for wherever he went he had quarrels and 
created an atmosphere of agitation. He constructed the 
fine tomb of the Valois (now destroyed), but his time for this 
kind of task grew scarce. Henri II made him his architect, 
which meant the superintendence of the works at Fontaine- 
bleau, St. Germain, and of all the royal buildings, as well as 
the " Tapisseries " at Fontainebleau. He led a life of constant 
riding across country, and with some dozen horses in his 
stables, this must have been pleasant enough. But he had 
^ "Women and Men of the French Renaissance." 
300 



CATHERINE AND THE ARTS 

to board all the building-tradesmen employed by the King, 
a race on whom he lavished contempt ; and constant quarrels 
with officials, besides rivalries with Primaticcio, or Serlio of 
the " Tapisseries," again chequered his career. In 1548, 
Diane employed him at Anet, where he designed the stately 
gardens at the back of the house, the two paviHons, the 
orangery, the heronry, the terrace overlooking the greensward 
and — his greatest triumph of all — the crescent-shaped stairway 
between the two. At Chenonceau, too, he worked for her, 
making the famous bridge and gallery ; and also at Ecouen, 
for the Constable, whose palace-portals were guarded by the 
two mighty slaves of Michael Angelo. With Henri II's 
death, De FOrme's luck turned. That event took place on 
July 10. On the 12th, a royal decree appointed Primaticcio 
as De rOrme's successor — a first attempt of the Guises to 
assert their supremacy at Court. Now that his patron, the 
King, was no longer there to support Phihbert, the general 
dislike of him broke out, and a good deal of clamour ensued. 
But not for long. Catherine adopted him as her own, and in 
the decade between 1560 and 1570, he built her palace of the 
Tuileries — connected, as she wished, by a long gallery with the 
unfinished, growing mass of the Louvre, the incomplete work 
of Pierre Lescot. De I'Orme did not bring peace with him. 
There were the usual quarrels — with architects, with work- 
men, with artists, with courtiers, with Bernard Palissy and 
with Ronsard. This last was a more serious dispute, for 
Ronsard brought charges of corruption and wrote a poem 
" La Truelle crossee," to repeat his accusations. De I'Orme 
had certainly received fat rewards for his services : he was 
Abbe of Noyon and of Ivry, Chanoine of Notre Dame, King's 
Almoner, and Privy Councillor. But his position at Ivry 
was probably his payment from Diane, and as for the rest 
of his gains, he repHed that he took them as compensation for 
the vast sums, never repaid, which he had spent in the course 
of his work. The Tuileries, still unfinished at his death, was 
his last important task, and we know little more of him, 
except that he escaped on St. Bartholomew's Eve, fore- 
warned, as legend tells us, by Catherine. 

But the finer and the deeper character, the more interesting 
type of his day, is, as we have said, Bernard Palissy, of whose 
life some short sketch is necessary in any record of his times. 



301 



CHAPTER XV 

Bernard Palissy 



303 



AUTHORITIES CONSULTED 



R6cepte Veritable — Bernard Palissy, 

Discours Admirables — Bernard Palissy, 

Journal de Pierre I'Estoilles. 

Histoire Universelle. — Agrippine d'AubignS. 

Biographical Introduction to GEuvres de Palissy — Anatole France, 

The French Renaissance — Mrs. Pattison. 

Histoire de France — Martin. 

Manuel de rhistoire de la littdrature fran92use — Bruneti^re^ 



304 



CHAPTER XV 

Bernard Palissy 

" T DESIRE in no way to be the imitator of my predeces- 

X sors, unless it be in what they have done well, according 
to the ordinance of God. For all round me I see abuses of 
the arts, while every man trots in the accustomed groove and 
follows the footmarks of those who went before him." 

In these words of his own we have the keynote to Bernard 
Pahssy. His wish to be " in no wise the imitator of his pre- 
decessors " expresses the whole man — the austere Protestant, 
the ardent foUower of science, the fearless innovator in every 
branch of knowledge that he touched. There was not a vestige 
of tradition about him, no one was freer from swaddling- 
bands. " I entered into myself," he writes in another place, 
" so that I might search among the secrets of my heart and 
dive into my conscience." This power of introspection was 
part of his rough sincerity, his inability to acquiesce in any 
sort of platitude. A trenchant originaHty is felt in each word 
that he utters. 

" All men " — says he in his writings — " toil at cultivating 
the land without the remotest philosophy . . . without 
considering the nature of substances for the real good of 
agriculture." " To hear you speak," replies his imaginary 
interlocutor, " one would think that a field-labourer needed 
philosophy — chose que je trouve Strange ^ 

" I tell you" — breaks forth Pahssy again — " that to pursue 
agriculture without philosophy is no better than a daily rob- 
bing of the earth. . . . And I marvel that the earth and her 
fruits do not cry vengeance against certain murderers, 
ignorant and ungrateful, who day by day do nothing but 
waste and spoil trees and plants." Fervent, patient, irritable, 
many-sided, forcible, strong of body, stronger of will, his 
intellect dominating all things, Bernard Palissy was essentially 
the thinker of the Renaissance. But — it must be repeated — 

305 X 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

he was not an artist, although, strangely enough, it is an 
artist that the world has considered him. The artistic sense, 
indeed, seemed the only sense that he lacked. The pottery 
upon which his fame rests is a feat of invention, not of art ; it 
depended on the discovery of a particular white paste which 
would take colour better than any substance hitherto known ; 
and the heavily painted vases which we have all tried respect- 
fully to admire were the results of his painful researches. 
But they were not the greatest of his achievements. In per- 
fecting his material, in finding out the right clay to pulverise, 
the right furnace for heating and cleansing, the requisite chem- 
icals, the laws of cooling and of hardening — all the means that 
had to be flawless before he attained his end — he discovered 
a great many things that were more significant than enamel. 
The secrets of earth and water lay hidden by the way — the 
properties of salt, the right treatment of trees, the economics 
of Nature, in short, what he would call " les natures des choses'' 
He possessed two invaluable powers : the desire for usefulness 
and the self-confidence of the Reformer. Nothing was too 
big or too small for him, and he was equally keen, whether he 
was regenerating the system of fortification in France, or 
constructing a model dunghill. He planned out a scheme 
which would revolutionize current methods of agriculture and 
greatly enrich his country, and he may almost be said to have 
initiated the modern science of geology. We catch a touching 
glimpse of him, in his own record, in a certain monastery at 
Tours, the Abbot of which was a mineralogist, bending keen 
and absorbed over the old man's cabinet of specimens — a rare 
possession in those days. And to hear him speak of fossils 
is to hear a poet speaking of poetry ; he cannot mention them 
without something like a thrill of emotion. 

It appears strange, at first sight, that a man so richly 
dowered with scientific genius should have devoted his energies 
to what seems a mere matter of detail. But his discoveries 
could not be tested without enormous expenditure ; they were 
in advance of his age and could appeal to few of his generation. 
He published them in his books, but that was nearly all that 
he could do, whereas the achievement on which he set his heart 
was well within his compass. He could bring it to completion 
with his own hands ; it would be welcomed at once by his con- 
temporaries. Considerations such as these restricted his 
energies, while his intellect ranged unfettered over creation. 

Palissy was a man of thought, but by no means a man of 

306 



BERNARD PALISSY 

cultivation. His tendencies were profoundly democratic, and 
he came of artizan stock devoid of aesthetic or scholarly tra- 
ditions. That he was unlettered turned to his advantage. 
Not only did it lend his style a racy vernacular, a strong, almost 
rude simplicity, and a lucidity far removed from the lingo of 
the schools, but it added a fresh intensity to his life. And the 
noblest weapon in his armoury was his faith. For undaunted 
reasoner and apostle of science though he was, he was pene- 
trated by the sense of the immanence of God. In his awe of 
the Universe, in his manifold discoveries, and in his scorn of 
ignorant stupidity, he often reminds us of Goethe ; while his 
dignified persistence in his path of experiment in the face of 
every failure for eighteen years of poverty and distress, and 
the large and humble religion that sustained him, constantly 
recall a great Frenchman of recent years — Louis Pasteur. 
But Bernard lacked the poetic genius of Goethe and the 
modern specialist's concentration of Pasteur, and he did not 
leave to the world such important results as either of his 
successors. Perhaps he arrived too soon for the scientific 
genius that possessed him. 

He was born near Saintes, in Saintonge, between 1500 and 
15 10, of a family of rural artizans. The craft he chose was 
that of a glass-painter, or venier (to be distinguished from that 
of the vitrier, or glazier) and his work consisted in painting 
figures on separate pieces of glass. His apprenticeship once 
over, he went on a journey all round France, observing men 
and things and especially such as affected his own work. 
His keen professional eye noticed that the glass of the church 
windows which he saw was here and there worn away. " The 
moonhght does it," said the peasants. " The rain does it," 
said Pahssy. When he returned to Saintes he estabhshed his 
own glass business — but it did not pay, and as he had mean- 
while married, he turned to a more lucrative occupation. As 
a land-surveyor and maker of land-maps, or " pourtraicts," 
he managed to earn the necessities of fife for his quickly 
increasing family. The tide, however, was to turn. Fame 
was to blow her fateful trumpet in his ear and comfort to take 
wing and fly away. Ronsard was sixteen when he met Virgil, 
and when PaHssy met his fate he must have been nearly thirty. 
His fate was an earthenware cup of which he caught sight one 
day, delicately painted, enamelled in white, coming as some 
say from Castel Durante, though later critics think that it 
was French. This goblet took possession of Palissy's brain, 

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CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

not on account of any beauty that it boasted, but because he 
saw that the whitish paste of which it was made was an ex- 
cellent ground for colours, and it struck him that if he could 
succeed in fabricating pure white enamel, he might obtain 
wonderful effects and reproduce the hues of all things living. 
He set his brain to work and " from that time forward applied 
himself to pounding everything that could be pounded, 
in the firm persuasion that if he put the whole of Nature 
in his mortar, he would one day behold all that he desired — 
white enamel." He tried every kind of powder, he changed 
his furnace, but for some time nothing came of it. Workmen 
he could not afford to employ — every penny went on his 
materials ; he was his own mason, he tempered his own mortar, 
and carried the materials for his work, unaided, upon his back. 
When the toil of baking the pots in the fire was over, there 
came a terrible four weeks' labour, night and day, of grinding the 
paste. After three years and the expenditure of all his fortune, 
the mortar of his stove cracked and everything was spoiled. 
Ruin stared him in the face. By this time, he " always had," 
as he reports, " one or two children out at nurse, for whom 
he could never pay " ; he could not afford to wait and was 
obliged to resume his land surveying. The advent of the 
King's Commissioners, who came to levy the salt tax at Saintes, 
gave him his chance, for they employed him on a map of 
the salt-marshes which put a round sum in his pocket. No sooner 
had he got it than the hope which had never deserted him 
reasserted itself, and back he went to his kiln. Then began a 
long drama of the will — a victory for his spirit, but a tragedy 
for his wife and Httle children. The difficulties he surmounted, 
the hardships he underwent for some sixteen years more, are 
almost past belief. The glassy powders gave him trouble — 
he became a master-glazier. His furnaces went wrong — he 
turned a professional furnace-maker. If the furnace went 
out, the work of all those years would be spoiled, so he sat up 
through the nights, wet or fine, and for a month " his clothes 
dried upon him." Sometimes he "went to bed — " at mid- 
night," as he tells us, "or at break of day, accoutred hke to 
one who had been dragged through all the mire of the town ; 
and as I thus withdrew, I walked stumbling, without a candle, 
and reeling from side to side like a man drunk with wine — for 
I was filled with great sorrows, the more so since I knew that 
all my long labour was wasted." " J'etais,^^ he writes elsewhere, 
" dans une telle angoisse que je ne saurais dire.^^ At last he 

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BERNARD PALISSY 

engaged a potter to make his vases, but after six months he had 
no money for him and was compelled to send him away, giving 
him his own clothes as salary. Again he did all himself, 
hurting his unresting hands in the process. " My fingers " 
— he says — " were cut in so many places that I was 
forced to eat my soup with my hands bound up in rags." He 
had no more fuel for his fire ; starvation pinched him, his 
wife and children were crying for bread — for all answer he 
broke up the tables and chairs and piled them on his Moloch- 
like oven. There is no creature so cruel as a man with a fixed 
idea, for he sees nothing else — common humanity deserts him 
and he is nothing but an unrelenting Will. Perhaps, at the 
best of times, Palissy was not a creature of human affections. 
It is strange that in his pages there is no allusion to wife or 
child except as factors in his suffering — no mention of an 
intimate friendship — no warmth but for knowledge and ideas. 
He went on his way, indifferent to everything but the fulfilment 
of his aim. His relations cursed him, his poor wife tormented 
him when he retired to rest. " There was nothing in the house 
but reproaches," he comments with pathetic bitterness. He 
was mocked at in the town for a madman. " Serve him right 
if he dies of hunger," said the citizens, " since he has deserted 
his profession." A report ran that he was trying to find out 
how to make false coins, and dishonour was added to his suffer- 
ings. " I walked with bowed head through the streets," he 
writes, " like one who is ashamed . . . Then I asked my soul, 
* what is it that casteth thee down, seeing that thou art finding 
what thou seekest ' . . . And when I had stayed some time 
in bed and had considered within myself that if a man fell 
into a ditch, his duty would be to try to get up again, I set 
myself to make some paintings and by divers other means 
I tried hard to earn a httle money. And the desire that I had 
to reach my goal made me do things which I should have 
thought were impossible." 

When success seemed near at hand, he found that his open 
furnace spoiled all and with difficulty he made a covered one. 
Another time when the actual compound seemed to be before 
him, some flaw in the kiln let in a shower of ashes and the 
delicate substance was ruined. Yet his spirit remained un- 
broken. " Many a time," he said, " when people came to 
see me, I made an effort to laugh so that they might be amused, 
but my heart was very heavy." It is a relief to hear of good 
moments, however brief. Once when he had formed some 

309 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

white material which seemed to approach the right kind, he 
" felt as if he had been born again," but the usual disappoint- 
ment ensued. Then he tried a new experiment — the use of 
a grinding-mill which he turned alone with both his arms, 
though, in the ordinary course, two men could only move it 
with difficulty. Again he produced a substance which only 
just failed, but he refused an offer for a vase that he had made 
out of it and proudly broke it into bits : " /^ soif dc la perfection 
oblige'' might have been his motto. 

At last, somewhere about 1550, the great day came and the 
last secret of the long-sought process was found. Fruition 
came to a family almost too crushed to receive it. He himself 
was nearly wasted away. His muscles, he tells us, had shrunk, 
and the garters with which he tied up his stockings fell down 
with them to his heels. Prosperity was at hand in pleasant 
places, but before we follow him there, we must first go back 
in his history. 

Palissy was born for Protestantism — of the Covenanting 
sort. In 1546, some French monks who, under the swa}^ of 
German Reformers had attacked the abuses they saw in their 
midst, were forced to fly from their monasteries. Some of 
them came to the district of Saintes and by degrees made 
themselves known to the people. Luckily for them, the Grand 
Vicar there had heretical tendencies and allowed them his pulpit 
to preach from. One of them, the saintly Philibert Hamelin, 
became a close friend of Palissy, to whom, born Puritan that 
he was, the new faith was a revelation. Hamehn, whose teach- 
ing he sought eagerly, took a garret in the town and there 
held Bible readings to an ever- increasing congregation, which 
became the nucleus of the Reformed Church of Saintes, the 
Church of which " Maitre Bernard " was thenceforward a 
zealous member. In the midst of these proceedings came 
suddenly to Saintonge a demand for the payment of the salt- 
tax, or gabelle. The country all round revolted. The peasants 
took Saintes, broke open the prisons, hanged the tax-collectors, 
and burned the registers of the gabelle. Strange to say, this riot 
was the beginning of Palissy's fortune, for the Connetable de 
Montmorency was sent to settle matters with the rebels. The 
town of Saintes itself got off easily, through a good governor 
who knew how to tackle the fierce Constable. To that grandee 
Maitre Bernard was now introduced as an able craftsman, 
by some of the local noblemen. Montmorency, who was 
always keen to surpass King and Court in magnificence, 

310 



BERNARD PALISSY 

welcomed any new artist and was very gracious to Palissy. 
From that moment, he became his patron. He had a studio 
built for him upon the city ramparts and gave him work to do 
at Ecouen — glass-painting and enameUing— which must have 
helped to keep him ahve during his long struggle. When the 
famous secret was found and at the Constable's service, he 
became that Prince's " Inventeur des rustiques figulins " — a 
fantastic-sounding office, suggesting some fairy-laureateship 
and not ill-suited to the many-hued grotesques that emanated 
from the wizard's workshop. A great grotto at Ecouen, in 
accordance with the fashion fresh from Italy, established his 
" eternal " fame. It was formed like an immense sea-cave 
with inner rooms and terraces and doorways and rocky pillars, 
and he filled its clefts with creatures in enamel, undistinguish- 
able from real ones — cray-fish and tortoises and shells and 
strange ferns, all of the most brilliant colours. It sounds more 
like a naturalist's cabinet than any place of beauty ; but it 
delighted the connoisseurs of the day and suited their desire 
for what was curious. In later times, he and Catherine de' 
Medici delighted in placing these earthenware animals of his — 
toads, snakes, reptiles of all sorts — among the plants and 
flower-beds of the Tuileries, not to speak of life-sized men, 
curiously attired ; and both alike prided themselves on making 
a permanent contribution to the beauty of the world. 

Palissy made a fundamental mistake in his whole conception 
of art. He confused aesthetics with Nature and mistook in- 
genuity for beauty. " The works " — he says—" of our sovereign 
God, the First Builder, must be worthier of honour than the 
work of human builders. Thou knowest that a portrait 
copied from another portrait . . . can never be as valuable 
as the original from which it is taken ; wherefore columns of 
stone can never be as glorious as the columns that stand in the 
forest." 

Unfortunately he appHed the same standard to all that he 
accomplished. His ideal garden was to be laid out according 
to the 104th Psalm, because he had had a vision of " certain 
virgins " sitting in the shade and singing this Psalm, with 
voices " douces et accordantes'' — which music led him to resolve 
that he would paint a picture of the " beautiful landscapes 
sung by the Prophet in this canticle." But then he reflected 
that pictures soon perish and that a garden designed after 
the Psalmist's words would last longer, though as the Psalm 
describes nothing smaller than the wonders of the Universe, 

311 



CATHERINE DE* MEDICI 

it is hard to understand where the " garden " comes in. 
Harder still is it, perhaps, to trace the source of inspiration 
in the model that he designed. It was to contain " an amphi- 
theatre of refuge " for exiled Christians, besides eight enamel 
" cabinets " (a species of Renaissance bungalow) full of his 
zoological master-pieces and scientifically constructed foun- 
tains ; it had a model system of irrigation suggested by ex- 
periments with salic substances ; but there is never a mention 
of a green alley or a flower, and we cannot imagine anyone, 
unless it were an engineer, being happy in it. Fortunately his 
plans were impossible of execution. " I know," said he, 
" that there are some foes to virtue and some slanderers who 
say that the design of this garden is a mere dream, and can 
only be compared to the vision of Polyphilius." 

*' Le songe de Polyphile" was a fashionable allegorical romance 
translated from the Italian, the hero of which dreams rather 
tediously of ornate grottoes, and it was almost the only book 
beside the Bible that Palissy ever read. His knowledge did 
not come from books but from his own observation. One can 
fancy him in his evening walks among the fields, or along the 
banks of the river Charente, to-day half starved and miserable, 
to-morrow alert and hopeful, but through all fortunes, faith- 
fully, closely observant. " And straightway I began to bend 
my head downwards, as I walked along the road, so as to see 
nothing which would keep me from my inward imaginings 
as to what was the cause of the phenomenon, and being in 
this travail of mind, I then thought out the thing that I still 
believe, in the full conviction that it is true." Thus he wrote 
when he was investigating the nature of fossils, but the words 
apply to his method at any moment of his Hfe. His model 
system of fortification was based upon his constant study of 
the lairs of wild animals ; his model system of agriculture 
upon his noticing the slovenly construction of the country-side 
dunghills and also by his finding out the conserving properties 
of salt. When he went for a leisurely stroll, his eye took in 
each detail of the surrounding landscape. He knew which 
plant was diseased, which tree was wrongly lopped, which field 
could be made more fertile, and his brain did not rest till it 
had discovered the remedy. 

In his most random remarks there is ever the same spirit. 
*' I. went for a walk in the direction of the east wind," thus he 
writes in one of those rare moments of enjoyment which flash 
like winter sunshine across his sombre pages, " and while I 

312 



BERNARD PALISSY 

strolled beneath the fruit-trees, I felt a great contentment and 
many joyous sensations, for I saw the squirrels picking the 
fruit and leaping from bough to bough, with divers charming 
attitudes and gestures. In another place I watched the 
crows gathering nuts and enjoying the dinner they made of 
them. Elsewhere again, beneath the apple-trees, I found 
certain hedgehogs, who had rolled themselves up in a round ball 
and, having stuck their prickles into the apples, were moving 
off, thus heavily loaded. ... I noted also a piece of cunning 
which a fox carried through in my presence — the finest and 
the subtlest of which ever I heard tell : for finding himself 
without any victuals, and considering that dinner-time was 
near and that he had nothing ready, he went to lie down in 
a field close by, adjoining the spur of a wood, and once prone 
on the ground, he stiffened his legs and shut his eyes and looked 
as if he had been thrown down, thus counterfeiting death .... 
Whence it happened that a crow, who also had nothing for 
dinner, being convinced that the fox was dead, came and 
perched upon his body. . . . But she was nicely trapped, for 
at the first peck of her beak, the fox with sudden quickness 
seized hold of the crow, who could not think of anything to do 
except to emit caws. And this is how the clever fox took his 
dinner at the expense of her who wished to eat him." 

We almost expect La Fontaine to rise as we read, and to 
point a spicy moral to the tale. 

Sometimes he reaches a higher plane and draws his own 
moral from the Universe. " I know full well " — he says — " that 
God created all things in six days and rested the seventh day ; 
nevertheless, God did not create these things so as leave them 
idle — and each of them performs its duty according to God's 
commands. The stars and the planets are not idle ; the sea 
rolls from one side to another and travails to produce things 
profitable ; the earth is apparently unresting ; that which is 
naturally consumed inside her she renews and re-forms on the 
instant, and if it is not of one kind, she makes it of another. 
And this is why you must put your dunghills in the ground, 
so that the earth may take back the substance that she gave." 

The Puritan and Scriptural tone pervades his writings. 
" Above all else," he says, " prithee remember a passage in 
Holy Writ, there where St. Paul says that according as each 
man has received gifts from God, he must distribute them to 
others. Therefore I beg thee to teach the labourers, since they 
are not lettered, that they may carefully study natural philo- 

313 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

sophy in pursuance of my counsels." Such is the note of his 
discourses, and such the motive of his labour, whatever form it 
took. 

Meanwhile, his religious experiences had been by no means 
calm ones. The Protestant minister, Hamelin, on a visit to 
the Church which he had established at Saintes, was arrested 
for heresy and imprisoned. Bernard dared to protest in the 
presence of the town authorities, but he could not prevent the 
removal of Hamelin to Bordeaux, where he speedily suffered 
death. Saintes was now left in peace for two years, until 
the massacre of Vassy kindled revolt in all the provinces. 
Luckily the Due de la Rochefoucauld, whom Conde had sent 
to Saintonge, took charge of Palissy's welfare and gave him a 
safe-conduct to Bordeaux, where he set up a workshop. Pa- 
tronage notwithstanding, he was seized one night and taken to 
prison ; but the omnipotent Constable once more intervened, 
interceded with Catherine on his behalf, and, with the help 
of his title of " Inventeur des rustiques figulins du Roi et 
Monseigneur le Due de Montmorency ^^^ was enabled to set him at 
liberty. Palissy proceeded to La Rochelle, the stronghold of 
the Protestants, where he pubhshed his " Recepte Veritable 
par laquelle tons les hommes de la France pourront apprendre 
a multiplier et augmenter leurs tresors." Nearly twenty years 
later, there came out his other work — " Discours admirables 
de la nature des eaux et fontaines, tant naturelles qu'artifici- 
elles, des metaux, des sels et salines, des pierres, des terres, du 
feu et des emaux, avec plusieurs autres excellents secrets des 
choses naturelles — plus un Traite de la Marine fort utile et 
necessaire a ceux qui se melent de I'agriculture " — a volume 
the very title of which is almost as comprehensive as an Ency- 
clopedia. The colloquial dialogues it contains, between Theory, 
the advocate of current opinions, and Practice, who always 
refutes them, are, like all his writing, a boldly-woven tissue 
of surprising intuition and quaint hypotheses. 

Soon after the appearance of his first book, he courageously 
returned to work at Saintes. In 1564, luck came his way. 
Catherine and Charles IX stayed in the town for a few days, 
and Bernard, the foremost craftsman of his city, found himself 
under the eyes of the Queen-Mother. He presented her with his 
enamels, he drew out a plan for a grotto, and two years later 
his labours bore fruit, for she summoned him to Paris to work at 
her new palace of the Tuileries. In its buildings " Maitre Bernard 
des Tuileries," as he soon became, had his workshop ; and there, 

314 



BERNARD PALISSY 

in its grounds, not long ago, were discovered a potter's kiln and 
some pieces of enamel. At last he lived and toiled in comfort, 
undisturbed in the exercise either of his craft or of his creed, 
and if he was not rich, he was happy. One cannot but wish 
that there were some record of his wife and her enjoyment 
of this belated prosperity, after her long ordeal. If she sur- 
vived it, who can say ? For the chronicle of her husband's 
life in Paris makes no mention of kith or kin, unless it be of 
two young men, Nicholas and Mathurin Palissy, who worked in 
his studio ; but whether they were his sons, or only pupils 
who had adopted his name, still remains a doubtful question. 
The Court showed its influence upon him ; he gave up his 
crayfish and lizards, and took to enamelling Nymphs and 
Naiads ; he studied antique gems and was swayed by Prima- 
ticcio and Cellini ; he saw designs from Florence and it is more 
than probable that he came into contact with Girolamo della 
Robbia, who was constantly employed in Paris. 

St. Bartholomew's Eve found him away in the Ardennes, 
where the Due de Bouillon favoured the Protestants ; he had 
probably fled, forewarned of danger and horrified at the national 
calamity. It left him broken and dispirited, but, with the 
Peace, he returned to Paris and went on with his work in his 
studio there, visited by Catherine and patronised by princes 
and by scholars. As time went on, he resolved to present the 
fruit of his researches to the world, and the year 1575 inau- 
gurated a new epoch in his life — he gave his three famous 
lectures. 

They were advertised at every crossing in Paris, and in order, 
as Palissy says, " to scare away the ignorant and the frivolous," 
a crown was charged for admission, though, with his customary 
daring, Maitre Bernard offered four crowns to any person who 
could refute him. The benches were packed with men of 
fashion, of science, of the arts. The Huguenot, Ambrose 
Par6, the great surgeon of Henri II ; Choisnin, Jeanne d'Albret's 
physician ; Barthelmy Prieur, the sculptor, were among the 
celebrities in the audience. " Thanks be to my God," wrote 
Bernard, " never a man contradicted me with a single word." 
The lecturer's vogue was immense and the lectures were con- 
stantly repeated until 1584, four years after their publication 
in the volume of " Discours Admirables." Their success was well 
deserved. " We are dumbfoimdered by all that this potter 
discovered in physics, in chemistry, in geology — that is to say, 
in sciences, then, even in name, non-existent. He knew that 

315 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

heat causes water to increase in volume and he divined the 
principle of dilatation ; he saw that springs were due to the 
infiltration of rain ; he observed that water tends constantly 
to re-ascend to the level of its source and deduced from this 
law a rational method for the piercing of Artesian wells ; he 
had some conception of the weight of air ; he affirmed that 
metals were changeless — which is true if taken in his sense, to 
wit that one metal cannot be transmuted into another ; about 
the formation of ice in rivers, he emitted a theory which can 
still be maintained ; of the rainbow, he gave such a happy 
explanation that it actually foreshadows our modern theory 
of the decomposition of light ; he made experiments on salt- 
petre which make the basis of our knowledge of crystals ; he 
had a confused but persistent notion of attraction ; he indicated 
the action of metaUic oxygen in the colouring of stones ; he 
explained the varying solidity of chalky formations ; he founded 
geology upon observations of unalterable certainty, studied the 
action of the sea upon the coast and understood the real origin 
of petrified shells. " They were "—he says — " engendered on 
the spot where they lay, while the rocks were still no more than 
water and mud, the which became petrified with the aforesaid 
fish." ' 

" Bernard," (says Anatole France) " never read the manu- 
script of Leonardo da Vinci, and yet Leonardo had said that 
' the shells which one finds piled up in different strata have, 
by necessity of Nature, lived in the same place that the sea 
once occupied. . . . That which has been the bottom of the 
sea has become the summit of the mountains.' " These state- 
ments are doubly interesting when we compare them with the 
already quoted passages from Ronsard in which the same idea 
is expressed. Very likely he had it from Palissy — possibly 
from one of these lectures — for when the rank and fashion of 
Paris were present, it is improbable that Ronsard would be 
absent. 

Maitre Bernard did not confine himself to Nature. He took 
the audience into his confidence and spoke about his craft as a 
potter, his arduous experiences, his bitter disappointments. 
He told them everything except his final secret, and his reserve 
upon this point he was not slow to explain. " My art and its 
secrets are not like others," he said, " I know full well that 
a remedy for the Plague or any other deadly illness ought not 
to be withheld. The secrets of agriculture ought not to be 
^ Anatole France. Preface to CEuvres de Bernard Palissy. 

316 



BERNARD PALISSY 

withheld. The knowledge of the risks and perils of navigation 
ought not to be withheld. The Word of God ought not to be 
withheld. The sciences which serve the common weal ought 
not to be withheld. But with my art of earthenware, and with 
other arts also, this is not the case. There are many goodly 
inventions the which are despised because 4hey have been 
made common to men, and many things are exalted in the 
houses of princes and noblemen which, if they were in common 
use, would be no more esteemed than old saucepans. . . . The 
blunders that I made in my final process taught me more 
than the things which went well ; wherefore I am of opinion 
that you should work to find the secret as hard as I did — else 
your knowledge will be too cheaply bought and that may cause 
you to despise it." 

PaHssy was never tired of teaching, and begged all who were 
in search of knowledge to come and see him in his lodgings at 
any hour of the day or night. Unlike other men of learning, 
he received them in a room devoid of books ; for beyond a 
second-hand acquaintance with Paracelsus, a mention of 
Cardan's volume on him, and an allusion to the " Roman de la 
Rose," his literary repertory still seemed restricted to the 
" Songe de Polyphile." " I am not " — ^he says — " a Greek, or a 
Jew, or a poet, or a rhetorician, but a simple artizan, very poorly 
versed in letters ; notwithstanding the which reasons, the 
work that I achieve has not less virtue than if it proceeded 
from a more eloquent man. I would rather tell the truth in 
my plain peasant's language than a falsehood in that of an 
orator." The peasant was always strong in him and his 
choice of invective was a rich one. We wonder if he apos- 
trophized his audience with as little ceremony as he used to- 
wards " Reponse," in his " Recepte Veritable." " Je f assure 
que je ne connus onques une si grande bete que toi,^^ or ^' J ene 
vis onques homme de si dure cervelle que toi,^'' ox''' Tu es aussi 
grann hete aujourdhui comme hier^^ and the like modes of 
address, give much spontaneity to his style, but would hardly 
have ingratiated an audience. He was, to say the least, anti- 
classical. " Nothing ever seems good to you that does not 
come from the Latins," he exclaims with irritation. But the 
best arguments that he uses are his own robust words which, in 
his iiner moments, can rise to a level of solid grandeur. " The 
coming of the sea " — he writes — " seemeth Hke unto a great 
army which advanceth against the land to combat her. And 
its vanguard, like the vanguard in battle, hurls itself so im- 

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CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

petuously against the rocks and boundaries of the land, making 
so furious a din, that it seemeth as if all must be destroyed." 
He delights, too, in the wind and in the rain — " the which 
being gathered in the air and formed into big clouds, rush forth 
from one side and the other, hke unto the heralds sent by God." 

The lectures are full of passages such as these, and Palissy's 
rugged conviction must have given them an added eloquence. 
His success did not abate, and this happy state of things lasted 
till he was near eighty and Henri III was on the throne. The 
Ligue, that Cabal of Sixteen, ruled all things ; a wave of re- 
actionary fanaticism swept over the country ; there began a 
fresh persecution of the Protestants, and Palissy did not 
escape it. 

The curtain rose on the last tragic Act of his Hfe. He was 
seized and put in the Bastille. PubUc execution would have 
been his speedy fate, had it not been for the interference of the 
Due de Mayenne, the son of Francois, Due de Guise. There 
is a story told by the Huguenot historian, D'Aubigne, of a 
visit paid him in prison by the King, who entreated him to 
abjure the new fath. " Otherwise," said he, ''I shall be 
forced to leave you in the hands of your enemies." " 5t>^," 
answered Bernard, " I was willing to give my life for the glory 
of God, and if I had felt any regret, it would have been ex- 
tinguished when I heard my great Sovereign speak the words, 
* I am forced,' for neither you nor those who force you can 
force me, since I know how to die." His age protected him 
from the gallows, but he was left to a worse fate — a slow death 
in his prison. Within two years came the end. " In this 
same year " (1590), writes a diarist, " there died in the 
dungeons of the Bastille, Maitre Bernard Palissy, a prisoner 
on account of his rehgion, aged eighty years, and he died of 
misery and want and ill-treatment. . . . The aunt of this 
good man having gone to enquire how he was, found that he 
had died, and Bussi (the gaoler) told her that if she wished to 
see him, she would find him with the dogs upon the ramparts, 
where he had caused him to be thrown like the dog that he 
was." 

So perished one who defined his aim in life as an attempt 
" to incite all men upon the earth to become lovers of good- 
ness and just labour," and so passes the wise man from the 
world. But his wisdom does not share his mortality. 

" Ce bonhomme^^ — notes the same diarist — "left me, when 
he was dving, a stone which he always called his philosopher's 

31S 



BERNARD PALISSY 

stone. He said it was the head of a dead man, which time had 
turned to stone. Also another, which had served to help him 
in his work : the which two stones are in my cabinet, and I 
love and treasure them greatly, in memory of the old man 
whom I loved and relieved in his need, not as I desired, but as 
I could." 

i Well might Bernard pronounce that grim head to be the 
philosopher's stone. For to him it represented Knowledge, 
and Knowledge had brought content to his spirit — had solved 
for him the riddle of existence. '* Or'' he says, " Dieu est 
sapience : Von ne pent done aimer sapience sans aimer Dieu.'''' 

9|C 3|C 3|C 3|5 •!• 

Bernard Palissy represented, as it were, the hope of the 
future — he stood forth as the symbol of modern science and 
forged the first Hnk of an infinite chain. With the moral 
degeneration of the time his stern religious nature had no 
concern, while his very powers were a hindrance to his sense 
of beauty. His generation, we must repeat, was scientific, 
not artistic. And science demands the critical mind ; for 
enthusiasm, though it may make men of science the happier, 
forms no necessary part of their baggage. Art, on the other 
hand, requires hope — there cannot be a great art without joy, 
and a joy not restricted to the few. But any period of deca- 
dence is apt to despise the happiness which is common to 
many, and the age was an age of pessimism, of restlessness, 
when distraction took the place of enjoyment. There were 
writers of that day who were conscious that health and spirits 
were degenerating and that men were living upon excitement. 
" For in vain " — says one of these commentators — " do we seek 
for gladness if our bodies are compact of melancholy humours. 
Hence comes it that many are sad in the midst of pleasure, 
without being able to say wherefore. ... He who has heard 
the nightingale will have nothing to do with him who imitates 
its song. Everything passes in a moment ; the remembrance 
of the pleasures we have had is not as strong as that of the 
misfortunes we have avoided." 

The last sentence might stand as an epitaph on the grave of 
the age we have been recording. Catherine de' Medici, for all 
her Italian animation, was its tutelary genius. Her mind was 
very large, but it had no rudder. It was like a big ship doomed 
to strew the sea with wreckage when it reached difficult places. 

Nor were her faults such as grew better with time, and the 
last half of her life might serve as a moral tale. The woman 

319 



CATHERINE DE' MEDICI 

of the next twenty-seven years, lax by taste and a bigot by 
policy, is not pleasant to read of. But she is always interest- 
ing as a human document. The story of this Catherine de' 
Medici, the colleague of Alva, the Catherine of St. Bartholo- 
mew's Eve and of the Ligue, still remains to be written if 
we would complete the record of an enigmatic and abnormal 
personahty. ^^^ 



320 



INDEX 



Adrets, Baron d', i86, 220 

Alava, Spanish Envoy, 19 

Albret, Jeanne d'. See Jeanne de 
Navarre 

Aldobrandini, Salvestro, 31 

Alen9on, Due d', 14 

Alexander VI, 234 

AUessandro, Duke of Florence, 30 

Alva, 18, 23, 90 

Amboise, Catherine de' Medici mar- 
ried at, 29 

— Conde imprisoned at, 113 

— executions at, 109, 171 

— Huguenot plot of, 105-7 

— peace of, 226, 237 
Amyot, Bishop, 72 
Anabaptists, Flemish, 107 
Andelot, Marechal d', 89, 123, 184, 

210 
Anet, 48, 57, 60, 95, 301 
Angouleme, Bastard of, 9 

— See Marguerite d'Angouleme 
Anjou, Henri, Duke of, 10, 174 
Anne of Austria, 78 

— de Bretagne, 291 

Antoine de Navarre, character of, 
102-3, 141, 143, 150,159, 215 
appearance, 144 

— attitude to religion, 143, 154, 

159. 179. 215 

— married life, 141, 142-5, 148-5 1, 1 56 

— letters to his wife, 142-5," 148- 

50. 156 

— feeling for her, 142, 185, 217 

— journey to Orleans, 113 

— behaviour there, 1 1 5 

— conduct at Poissy, 173, 181 

— relations with Catherine, 156, 

177, 183-4 

— connection with la Belle Rouet, 

156, 177-9. 216-17 

— joins the Triumvirate, 181, 184 

— siege of Rouen, 216 

— illness and death, 217-18 
Arquebuses, church-bells of Pro- 
testants, 193 

Architecture, Catherine de' Medici 
and, 294 



32 



Armagnac, Cardinal d', Governor of 
Beam, 150, 154, 219 

Astrology, 11, 67, 299 

Aub6pine, Claude d', Henri II. de- 
scribed by, 83 

Augsburg, 175 

Aumale, Due d', 61, 63, 87, 225 

Auvergne, Madeleine de la Tour d', 
daughter of Jeanne de Bour- 
bon and the Seigneur de 
Latour, and mother of Cath- 
erine de' Medici, 29 

B 
Baif, Lazare, Maitre des Requetes. 

244 

— Jean Antoine, 245 

Baillive de Caen as nurse to royal 
children of Navarre, 145 

Banquets, 81 

Barbette, La, 78 

Bastille, Vidame de Chartres taken 
to the, 112 

— death of Palissy in the, 3 1 8 
Beam, 144, 148, 150, 180, 183, 185 
Beaupreau, Marquis de, 75 
Beauvoir, M. de, tutor to Henri IV., 

IS3-S , , 

Beli^vre, Catherine de' Medici's letter 

to, 60 
Belle Rouet, La, 156, 177, 179. 216 
Belleau, Remy, 245 

— poem by, 286 

Belloc, Hilaire, attitude to Ronsard 

of, 259 (Note) 
Bertrandi, Chancellor, Catherine de' 

Medici appointed co-regent 

with, 91 
Berri, see Marguerite de 
B6ze, Theodore de, Catherine de' 

Medici and, 22 

— Plot to take Lyons approved by, 

113 

— letter to Cond6 from, 129 
Jeanne de Navarre from, 156 

— and the Huguenot party, 168-72 
Billon, 291-2 

Binet, 257 
Biron, 153 

I Y 



INDEX 



Blois, II, 36, 107, 155, 223, 244 
Bordeaux, Palissy's workshop at, 

314 
Borgias, 8, 18, 25, 231 
Bouchage, letter from Diane de 

Poitiers to, 65 
Bouchot, biographer of Catherine de' 

Medici, 31, 33 
Bouillon, Comte de, 63 

— Due de, 315 

— Geoffroi de, maternal ancestor of 

Catherine de' Medici, 159 
Boulogne, 91 
Bourbon F^inces, 88, 105, 112, 116, 

159 

— Antoine de. Due de Vendome, 

see Antoine de Navarre 

— Antoinette de, 189 

— Cardinal de, 93, 113, 169, 217, 

259 

— Conn6table de, plots against 

Fran9ois I, 51 

Bourbons, 18, 29, 105, 116, 163 

Bourg, Anne du, trial and execution 
of, 105 

Brantome, 45, 52, 86 

Br6z6, Louis de, S6n6chal of Nor- 
mandy, 51, 65 

Brez^, Loys de, 79 

Brigonnet, Bishop, 235 

Brissac, 91 

— letter from Diane de Poitiers to, 

57 

— Dame de, 36 

Brussels, French Ambassadors at, 84 
Bussi, 318 



Calais, 91, 162, 226 
Calvin, 21-2, 107, 169 

— letter of to Coligny, no 

— plot to seize Lyons approved by, 

112 

— influence of over women, 125 

— letter to Conde from, 129 

— letters from Renee, of Ferrara, to, 

139-40 

— decision of Catherine de' Medici 

and Coligny against his pre- 
sence at Poissy, 168 

Calvinism, 199, 232 

Calvinists, 107, 168, 233 

Campion, quotation from poem of, 

273 
Castelnau, Baron de, no 
C&teau-Cambresis, peace of, 90 

— treaty of, 62, 91 

Catherine de' Medici, birth of, 29 

— childhood, 30-2 

322 



Catherine de' Medici, suitors, 33 

— negotiations for her marriage, 33 

— marriage with Henri II of France, 

35 

— reception at the French Court, 

35-6 

— friendship with Francois I, 36-8 

— plan for divorce, 38 

— relations with Henri II, 16, 37, 92, 

94 

with Diane de Poitiers. 37-8, 

44. 53. 55-60, 62 

— letters mentioning her, 16, 59, 

60 

— coronation, 50 

— birth of children, 71 

— her letters about them, 17, 71 

— her relations to them, 14 

to Fran9ois II, 10 1 

to Charles IX, 173 

to Elizabeth of Spain, 17, 79, 

80, 166 

— — to Princess Mar got, 7 

— her widowhood and mourning, 

94-6 

— her relations to Spain, 20, 22-3, 

119,162-7, 170, 175,184,212, 

214 
to England, 105, 162, 212, 

215, 226 
to the Guises, 18, 159, 177, 

207-8, 224 
to the Bourbons^ 18, 29, 103, 

116, 159 

to the Prince de Cond6, 213 

to Coligny, 108, 160 

to Montmorency, 13, 16 

— accession of Francois II, loi 

— her conduct during the Amboise 

conspiracy, i o 5 - 11 
to Cond6 and Antoine de 

Navarre, 113 
atFran9oisII's death and her 

assumption of the Regency, 

116 

— States-General and conferences 

preceding Council of Poissy, 
166-8 

— Council of Poissy, 17 1-6, 18 1-3 
of Fontainebleau, 166 

— attitude to people of Paris, 166- 

194 

— struggle with Guises, 176, 184 

— correspondence with Cond6, 209 

— her conduct during Civil Wars, 

91-2 

— letter on murder of Due de Guise, 

223 

— conclusion of peace, 226 



INDEX 



Catherine de' Medici, letters of, 9, 
10, 13, 14, 16, 17, 59, 60, 71, 
80, 1 12-13, 165-7, 177, 206, 
209, 211, 222-5, 294-5 

— letters about, 6-8, 11-13, 18, 19, 

21-2, 24, 32, 38, 57-9, 60, 62, 
95, 101-2, 107, 153, 174, 205- 
7, 213, 221 

— personal appearance of, 24, 32, 

36. 205 

— general character of, 4-19 

— jealousy, 16, 17, 57-60, 62 

— good sense, 116 

— tolerance, 11 1, 166 

— attitude to religion, to Protes- 

tantism and the Huguenots, 
20-3, 37, 106, 162-3, III, 
172. 234 

to the Pope and the Catholics, 

20,114, 162,164,183,201,214 

— slanders about her — how far 

justified, 5, 6, 8, 213 

— attitude to art, 294-5 
to science, 299 

— her luxury, 296 

— relations to Philibert de I'Orme, 

249, 295. 301 

to Bernard Palissy, 314-15 

Catherine de Navarre, 148, 155, 181 
Catholic League, 180 

— plot, 176 

Catholics, cruelties of, 193-4 

— complaints of, 195 

— proposed massacre of, 208 
Cavalli, 39 

Chilons, Bishop of, 189 

at Protestant service, 197-8 

Chantilly, Mill of, interview of 

Catherine de' Medici with 

Conde, 221 
Chantoimay, Envoy of Spain, 108 

— complaints of " Preches " by, 119 

— Catherine de' Medici warned by, 

164 

— demands of refused by Catherine 

de' Medici, 167 

— stormy interview of Catherine de' 

Medici with, 170, 175 

— letter of, 179 

— schemes of, 184 

— on religious views of Catherine 

de' Medici, 212, 214 

— attempts of to arrange marriage 

of Jeanne de Navarre, 218 
Ch&teaubriant, Madame de, 36 
Chdtelard, 248, 273 
Chatillons, training of the, 123 
Chatillon, Cardinal de, 89, iii, 167, 

184, 211, 249 



Chatillon, M. de, 122 

Charles V, 10, 84-5, 90 

Charles IX, 14. 96, 100. 116, 297, 314 

— Preches in apartments of, 167 

— oration at Council of Poissy, 171 

— religious attitude of, 173 

— letter of, 218 

— affection of for Ronsard, 248 

— poetic talent of, 249 
Chartres, Cond6 imprisoned at, 222 
Chaudieu, 106 

Chaumont, 95 

Chenonceaux, 95, 164 

Choisnin, physician to Jeanne de 

Navarre, 315 
Church, corruption of, 195 
Civitella, defeat of French army near, 

91 
Clement VII, Pope, 30, 33-5. 231 
Clergy, convocation of the, 166, 168 
Cloves, Due de, 138 
Clouet, Fran9ois, 22, 92, 189, 296 
Coligny, Gaspard, Amiral de, cha- 
racter of, 89 

— letter to his wife on loss of their 

child, 123 

— aims of, 161 

— his plea for equality of both 

religions, 11 1 

— relations to Catherine de' Medici. 

108, 160 

to the Guises, 108 

to the Crown, 160-1 

to Charles IX, 160 

— meetingwith Conde and his troops. 

210 

— interview with Catherine de' 

Medici, 214 

— attitude toward the murder of the 

Due de Guise, 224 
College de France. 77 
CoUesson, Jean, 191 
Colonna, Vittoria, 231 
Cond6, Prince de, character, of, 89, 

107, 121, 123-4, 127 

— appearance of, 127 

— attitude to religion, 127, 169 

— attitude to wife, 124, 130 

to children, 120, 125-6 

to Isabelle de Limeuil, 128-9 

to Coligny, 127, 184 214, 

— plot of Amboise— protest agamst 

cruelty, 109 

— journey to Orleans, arrest, and 

imprisonment, 113 

— liberation and acquittal, I30 

— at Poissy, 169 

— with Jeanne d'Albret in Pans, 

208 



323 



INDEX 



Conde, Prince de, correspondence 

with Catherine de' Medici, 209 

— • relations with her, 21, 160, 213-14 

— conduct during Civil War, 213, 

221 

— taken prisoner at Dreux, 222 

— negotiations for peace, 225 

— peace of Amboise, 226 

Cond6, Princesse de, E16onore de Roye, 
character of, 123, 129, 132 

— abilities, 127-8 

— parentage and early education, 

122-3 

— relations to husband, 113, 129, 131 
to children, 125, 131 

to Protestant ministers, 124 

to Catherine de' Medici, 127 

— illness and death, 129-32 
Contarini, 58, 62, 87 
Correr, 17 

Cotin, 146 

Coucy. Castle of, 145 

Court of Henri II, moral tone of the, 

87 
Creighton, Bishop, 8 
Cromwell, Oliver, 236 
Crussol, Madame de, 106, 169 



Dandolo, Venetian Ambassador, 39 
Danes, tutor of Fran9ois II, 72 
Dauphin, Henri II as, 39 
Diane de Poitiers, her character and 
abilities, 43, 48-9, 52, 66 

— her tastes, $3-5 

— her Platonism, 53 

— attitude to religion, 58 

— relations to and power over 

Henri II, 44-5, 47-9, 58, 61 

— letters of, 64-6 

— poems of, 49 

— relations to Catherine de' Medici, 

56-8 

to the Royal children, 57, 64 

to Montmorency, 62 

to^the Guises, 61-2 

— her appearance, 43-5, 48 

— her position as patroness of art 

and letters, 63 

— her disgrace, 95 

— her subsequent life, 63 

— her Will, 64-5 
Dorat, Jean, 245 
Dreux, 222 

Drummond of Hawthornden, poems 

of, 269, 274 
Du Bellay, Cardinal, 246, 249, 253 

— Guillaume, 244 



Du Bellay, Joachim, his youth, 243, 
246 

— his illness and poetic aims, 242, 

245-6 

— his meeting with Ronsard, 246 

— his position in the Pleiade, 247 

— his "Illustration de la Langue 

frariQaise," 247 

— poetic work, 247, 254-6, 285-6 

— quarrel with Ronsard, 252 

— stay in Rome and effect upon him, 

253-4 

— love-affairs, 248, 252, 255 

— honours, 255 

— attitude to religion, 241, 256 

— disappointment and death, 256 

— comparison with Elizabethans, 

241, 268 
Dumas, 4 
Du Perron, 259 
Dwarfs, Court, 77 

E 
Edict of January, 182-3, 213 

Romorantin, iii 

. Tolerance, 108 

" Eidgenossen," supposed derivation 

of " Huguenot," 201 
Elboeuf, Marquis d', 87 
Elizabeth, Queen of England, Ta- 

vannes' remarks on, 18 

— Mary Stuart's pearls worn by, 34 

— French Protestants and, 105 

— Jeanne de Navarre compared with, 

151 

— designs of, on Calais, 162 

— intervention of, 212 

— negotiations with, 226 

— Princesse deConde's appeal to, 114 
Elizabeth, Queen of Spain, Cather- 
ine's letters to, 16, 80, 166 

— death of, 15 
Ellancourt, 191 

Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy, 

90, 104 
England, 237 

— sale of Havre to, 216 

— treaty with, 226 
Erasmus, 231 

Estampes, Duchesse d', 36-7, 60, 66, 

78 
Este, Hippolyte d', Cardinal de' 

Medici and Papal Legate, 32-4, 

176-8, 180 



Ferdinand of Austria, 90 
Ferrara, see Renee of 
Ficino, Marsilio, 53 
Fleming, Lady, 59, 62 



324 



INDEX 



"Flying Squadron," 1 6, 28, 156, 177, 

298 
Fontainebleau, ** Touching " of the 
sick at, 79 

— Council at, 166 

— Chateau of, dispute concerning 

- key of 1 067 

— Charles IX compelled to leave for 

Paris, 210 
: — description of, 294 
Fourchade, Jeanne, 147 
France, 4 
Fran9ois I, Catherine de' Medici's 

friendship with, 36, 38, 51, 91 
Fran9ois II, betrothal of, 72 

— behaviour of to Montmorency, loi 

— weak character of, 14, no 

— health of, 107 

— political Protestants and, 105 

— reception of Antoine de Navarre 

by, 113, 115 

— death of, 116 



Galland, 258 

General Assembly, reforms suggested 

by, 164 
Geneva, 199 
Gonzaga, Giulia, 231 
Gouffier, Charlotte, Dame de Brissac, 

36 

— Anne, Dame de Montreuil, 36 
Goujon, Jean, 63, 249 
Grammont, Cardinal de, 34 
Grand-Mai tre, 102, 163 
Greville, Fulke, Poems of, 273 
Grey, Lady Jane, 66 

Guienne, Huguenot revolt at, 191 
Guiffry, 51 

Guise, Cardinal de, 87, 189 
Guise, Charles de, see Lorraine 
Guise, Due de, 6, 21, 23, 87-8 

— Lieutenant-General of French 

Army, 91 

— plan for abduction of Prince Henri, 

164 

— Catholic League and, 180 

— cruelty of at Vassy, 1 89-9 1 

— disloyal proposal of, 184 

— strong measures of in Paris, 208 

— at Dreux, 222 

— assassination of, 223 

Guise, Duchesse de(Annad'Este), 109 

Guises, the, 61, 102, 113, 11 5-16, 151, 

163, 167, 177, 185, 207, 212, 234 



Havre, sale of, to England, 216 

— retaken, 226 

Heilly, Mademoiselle de, see Duch- 
esse d'Estampes 

Henri II of France, character aS a 
boy, 46 

— marriage, 34-5 

— relations to his wife, 35, 86, 92 
to Diane de Poitiers, 45, 48 

— his letters to her, 46-7 

— his love-poems, 44, 46, 49 

— accession, 52, 56 

— ambassador's description of him, 

39 

— tastes, abilities and character, 39, 

45, 47-8. 77, 83, 87 

— love of children, 7s, 75-6 

— his ordinary day, 8 5 

— his attitude to Protestantism and 

religion, 89-90 

— his death, 95 

— his funeral ceremonies, 96-7 
Henri III, 15, 164-5 

Henri, King of Navarre, 46-7 

Henri IV, Prince of Navarre, 146, 15 $, 

185 
Herbert, Lord, of Cherbury, poems 

of, 270 
Herrick, 267 
Holland, 237 

Hotman, Francis, 107 ' • 

Huguenot conspiracy, 21 

— funeral, 197 

— riots in provinces, 182 

— triumphs, 174 

— tone of Council of Poissy, 164 

— cruelties, 220 

Huguenots, their children's services, 
194 

— De Raymond's description of, 

168 

— massacre of, 189 

Catholics planned by, 207 

— notable women of the, 122 

— pledge of toleration to, 119 

— posts given to, 176 

— puerile show of, 201 

— scandal from midnight services of, 

193 

— secret arms of, io6 

— secret signal of, 197 

— various parties of, 120-1 

— violence of, 192 
Humi^res, M. d', letter to, 64 

— Madame de, letter to, 71 



H 

Hamelin, 314 

Haton, Claude, 195, 221 



I 

Isabelle of Ischia, 231 



325 



INDEX 



James V of Scotland, 33 
Jamyn, Amadis, 247 
Jarnac, 66 

Jeanne d'Albret, Queen of Navarre, 
character of, 137-42 

— attitude to religion, 39-40, 121, 

152-3, 179 

— summary of girlhood, 138-9 

— married life, 14 1-2 

— birth of children, 145-6 

— relations to her son, 154, 185 

— feeling for her husband and dis- 

appointment in him, 105, 156, 
176, 179, 185 

— arrival and stay at Poissy, 171, 

176 

— departure for Paris, 176 

— flight thence to Beam, 185 

— relations to Catherine de' Medici 

and letters to her, 153, 183 

— letters to son, 154-5 

— other letters, 138, 140, 152-3, 185 

— government of her kingdom, 122, 

151 
Jodelle, Etienne, 252 
Joinville, home of the Guises, 189 

— Prince de, 75, 165 
Julius II, Pope, 231 



?K 



Knox, John, 236 



Les Tournelles, Palace of, 94 

Lignerolles, 9 

Limaudiere, Mademoiselle de la, 

" La Belle Rouet," 177 
Limeuil, Isabelle de, 124, 128 
Limoges, Archbishop of, letters from 

Catherine de' Medici to, 17, 

165, 206 
Longwy, Jacqueline de, 122 
Lorraine, Cardinal de, Charles de 

Guise, 61, 73 

— abusive anagrams on his name, 

104 

— his attendance at "Prdches," 126 

— at Poissy, 169, 175 

— character of, 87-8 

— Chief Commissioner, 154 

— his friendship with Ronsard, 249 

— his harshness to Princesse de 

Conde, 114 

— his presence at funeral of Henri 

11,97 

— prayer by, 116 
Lorraine, Duchesse de, 14 
Louis XIV, 44 
Louvre, 47, 97, 10 1, 301 
Luther, 231, 236 

Lutheran doctors sent for by Cardinal 

de Lorraine, 175 
Lutherans in Council, 169 
Luxembourg, 91 
Lying in state, Henri II, 96 

— Due de Guise, 224 
Lyons, plot of, 112 



Labrossiere, Cond6 informed of his 

wife's death by, 132 
La Chataignerie, 66 
Langey, Madame de, letter from 

Jeanne de Navarre to, 151 
Languedoc, Huguenots in, 112 
Languet, Hubert, 104, 107, 176 
Laon, 145 

La Renaudie, Sieur de, 107-8 
La Rochelle, siege of, 1 22; Protestant 

stronghold, 3 1 5 
Latour, Seigneur de, grandfather of 

Catherine de' Medici, 29 
Lauro, 178, 181, 216 
L'Hopital, Michel de, Chancellor, 23, 

III, 116 

— Keeper of the Seals, 162 

— opening speech of at States- 

General (1561), 182 

— and the Pleiade, 247 
Leo X, Pope, 29 
Lescot, Pierre, 301 



M 

MachiavelU, 8 

Magny, OUvier de .Secretary to Diane 

de Poitiers, 63 
Mailly, Madame de, letter to, from 

Catherine de' Medici, 106 
Maintenon, Madame de, 44, 47-8, 137 
Maligny, agent of Conde, 10, 112 
Mantua, Duke of, 33 
Marche, Marechal de la, 144 
Margot, Princess, 7, 14, 22, 67, 75, 

174, 296 
Marguerite d'Angouleme and Na- 
varre, 8, 21, 52, 232, 235 

— introduces Platonism to the 

French Court by, 54 

— as initiator of Reformation. lai-? 

— rough treatment of, 138 

— letter to Catherine de' Medici from, 

38 
Marguerite de Berri and Savoie, 

92-4, I IT, 212, 224, 248 
Marguerite de Vendome, 36 



326 



INDEX 



Marot, Clement, 247 ; his psalms, 20, 
86, 89, 192, 197, 220 

Marseilles, wedding of Catherine de' 
Medici at, 35 

Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, 34, 113, 

115 

— education of, 72-3 

— letters of, 73-4, loi 

— marriage of, 93-4 

— proposed marriage with Antoine 

de Navarre, 178 

— Ronsard's relations with, 248 
Mary Tudor, 90 
Masquerades, jj 

Mass on battle-field, 222 
Maurice of Saxony, 90 
Mayenne, Due de, 318 
Meaux, 210 

— fighting, at, 191 
Medici, Ottaviano de', 32 
Melun, 210 

Menars, President, 105 

Metz, siege of, 90 

Michael Angelo, 260 

Michelet, 4 

Michieli, Venetian Ambassador, 113, 

205 
Middle-class, 236 
Mirandola, Pico della, 53 
Monluc, 186 
Montaigne, 266 
Montaigu, Madame de', letter from 

Diane de Poitiers to, 66 
Montargis, Huguenot revolt at, 191 
Montgomery, 95, 210 
Montmorency, Connetable de, 90, 91, 

97. 112 

— Catholic League and, 1 80 

— death of, 222 
Montmorency, Marechal de, 176 
Montmorency, Louise de, Madame 

de Chatillon, 122 
Montpellier, fighting at, 191 
Montpensier, Duchesse de, 11 5-16, 

122 
Montreuil, Dame de, 36 
Morata, Olympia, 231 
Murate, Convent, 31 
Muret, 247 



N 
Nanteuil, Catherine de' Medici's visit 

to the Due de Guise at, 164 
Napoleon Bonaparte, 25 
Nemours, Due de, 164 
Neo-Platonism, 231-2 
Netherlands, 18, 20 
Nevers, Duchesse de, 36 



" New Learning," 137 

" New Opinions," 105, 137, 164, 173 

Nostradamus, 76 

Notre Dame, yj, 96 



Ol^ron, 154 

Olivier, Chancellor, ilo 

Orleans, Due d' (Henri II), 31, 33, "39 

— Court of, 153 

— ordinance of, 164 

— Conde's advice concerning, 208 
Orme, Philibert de 1', 6/, 249, 295, 299 

— summary of career of, 300-1 
Orsini, Alfonsina. grandmother of 

Catherine de' Medici, 29 



Palais de Justice, meeting in Golden 

Chamber of, 166 
Palissy, Bernard, birth and education 

of, 307 

— character of, 305, 306 

— artistic capabilities, 311 

— attitude to religion, 310, 313-14 

— journeys and profession, 307 

— married life, 307, 309 

— labours to discover white enamel, 

307-10 

— relations with Montmorency, 

310-14 

— arrest at Bordeaux and liberation, 

314 

— relations with Catherine de' 

Medici, 314, 319 

— at Tuileries, 314 

— lectures of, 315, 318 

— pubhcations of, 315 

— style of, 317 

— his imprisonment and death, 318 

— quotations from his writings, 313, 

316-17 
Pare, Ambrose, 315 
Paris, cold reception of Catherine de' 

Medici by, 35 

— sixteenth century, 77-8 

— consistory at, 106 

— agitated condition of, 166. 194 

— Montmorency appointed Governor 

of, 176 

— excited by Catholic preacher, 200 
Passerini, Cardinal, 30 

Pasteur, Louis, 307 

Peace of Amboise, 226, 237 

— of Cateau-Cambr6sis, 90 

— negotiations for, 222 

— of Vaueelles, 82, 84, 90 



327 



INDEX 



Peele, George, quotations from poems 
of. 267 

Periers, Bonaventure des, 54 

Perigord, Huguenots in, 112 

Perussel, Huguenot director of the 
Princesse de Conde, 124, 310 

•• Petite Bande," 36 

Philibert de I'Orme, see Orme 

Philip II of Spain, 20, 90, 104, 159, 
i6s 

Pickering, William, English Ambas- 
sador, 60 

Piedmont, 162 

Pilon, Germain, 297 

Pisseleu, Anne de, see Chateau- 
briant, Madame de 

Pius IV, Pope, 119 

Place des Greves, 105 

Planche, Regnier de la, 61 

Platonism, 53-5, 232 

Pleiade, 247, 261 

Poetry, French and English, com- 
parison of, 241 

— Elizabethan, 268 
Poggio Caiano, Palace of, 30 
Poissy, Council of , 21, 161, 195, 219 

— arrival of de Beze at, 168 

— Coligny's proposal for equal terms 

at, 163 

— confusion of de B^ze at, 172 

— document signed by de Bdze at, 

173 

— first sitting of Council of, 171 

— result of Council of, 182 

— tactics of Cardinal de Lorraine at 

Council of, 175 

— monastery of, 168 
Poitien, Prince de, 18 1 

— Princesse de, 122 
Pole, Cardinal, 231 

" Politiques," 105 
Pontus de Thiard, 247 
Postel, 77 
Pourbus, 24 

'Pitches,' 22, 126, 152, 167, 169, 
178, 192-3, 196, 199, 208, 226 
Prieur, Barthelmy, 315 
Protestant cities, 210 

— nobles, 171 

— De Raymond's description of, 168 

— important posts given to, 176 
Protestantism, a political danger, 23 

— a Court fashion, 20, 17 1-3 

— failure of in France, 25, 234 

— Henri II's attitude towards, 89 

— Henri of Anjou's leanings towards, 

173 

— increase of, 105, 174, 199 

— Palissy and, 310 



Protestantism, science and, 300 
— women politicians and, 137 
Provins, 173 



R 

Rabelais, 266 

Ramus, 55 

Raphael, bold answer of to Antoine 

de Navarre, 217 
Reconcilers, school of the, 231 
Reformation, 159, 193, 231-2 

— aristocratic leaders of the, 236 

— literary movement of the time 

unaffected by the, 241 
Reformed Churches, propositions for 
discussion advanced by the, 
169 
Reformers, freedom of, in theological 

discussion, 197 
Regency, Catherine de' Medici's ac- 
cession to the, 4, 10 1, 116, 159, 
1 60-1 

— difficulties of the, 162-3 
Renaissance, women of the, 67, 140 

— Neo-Platonism of the, 193 

— and Reformation, the, 231 
Renee, Duchess of Ferrara, Jeanne 

de Navarre compared with, 

137-39 

— letters from, 114, 139-40 

— policy of , 122, 137 

— religious views of, 152 

— guardian of Prince Henri of 

Navarre, 216 
Republic, desired by Calvinists, 105 
Rheims, 106 
Rochefoucauld, Due de la, 184, 210 

— Duchesse de la, 122 
Roche-sur-Yon, Prince de, 217 
Rome, 32, 253 
Romorantin, Edict of, iii 
Ronsard, Pierre de, parentage and 

boyhood of, 243 

— reads Virgil, 244 

— journeys in Germany, etc., 244 

— deafness, 244 

— at College de Coqueret, 245 

— meets Du Bellay, and they form 

the Pleiade, 245 

— his aims, 242, 246, 261 

— his poetic work, 220, 241, 258-9, 

268, 270-3, 276-84, 288 

— success and honours, 248-9, 257, 

259 

— his love-affairs, 251 

— attitude to religion, 259, 275 

to Rabelais, 275 

Rouen, 15, 216, 200 



328 



INDEX 



Roye, Eleonore de, see Princessc de 

Conde 
Rue de Crenelle, Hotel de, i8i 
Rue St, Jacques, Bible-burning in 

the, 208 
house in, meeting-place of 

Huguenots, 192 



Saint- Andre, Marechale de, 29, 124 

Marechal de, 103, 184, 222 

St. Bartholomew's Eve, 9, 225, 234 
Sainte-Beuve, 51 

— criticism of Ronsard by, 247, 261 
Sainte-Chapelle, jj 

St. Denis, 96 
Saint-Germain, 96, 103 

— arrival of Papal Legate at, 176 

— assembly at, 182 

— Court assembled for Conference 

at, 168 

— Protestant books sent to, 173 

— preacher brought to, 200 
Ste. Genevieve, Church of, 181 
St. John's Eve (1561), 166 

" Sainte Ligue," 62 

St. Ladre, 96 

Santa Lucia, Florence, convent of, 

30 
St. Marcoul, touching of the sick at, 

78 
Saint-Maur, 217 
Saint-Quentin, siege of, 91-2 
Saint-Vallier, Seigneur de, 51-2 
Saintes, 307, 314 
Saintonge, 307 
Salviati, Maria, 32 
Sardinia, 180 
Sarto, Andrea del, 29 
Savoie, Louise de, 58, 91 
Scevole de Saint -Marthe, 247 
Scotch Covenanters, 106 
Sforza, Francesco, Duke of Milan, 33 

— Catherine, 31 
Silly, Sieur de, 164 

Sir Walter Raleigh, poem of, 272 
Socialism, Christian, 199 
•Songe de Polyphile,' 312 



Sorbonnists, petition of, 170-1 
Spain, 90, 163, 165, 183 
Spanish Navarre, 147, 179, 180, 215 
Speyer, Diet of, 244 
States-General, 107, 163, 166 
Strasburg, Huguenots of, 107 
Strozzi, Clarissa, 29 

— Philip, 29 

— Marechal, 295 
Suriano, 22 



Tavannes, 18, 22, 57, 59, 82, 90, 195, 

199, 227, 296 
Tester, Guillaume de, 76 
Tournon, Cardinal de, 172, 295 
Treaty of Cdteau-Cambr^sis, 62 
Triumvirate, Catholic, 181 
Tuileries, 251, 301, 314 

^ U 
Urbino, Lorenzo of, father of Cath- 
erine de' Medici, 29 



V 

Vallery, Chdteau de, 129 » 

Vassy, massacre of Huguenots at, 
189-91 

— Bishop of Chalons sent to, 197-8 
Vaucelles, Peace of, 82, 84, 90 
Vendome, Due de, see Antoine de 

Navarre 

— raid on, 185 

Vielleville, Marechal de, 80-1, 145 

W 
Wars of Henri II, 90 
Watteau, Antoine, 256 
Wolsey, Cardinal, 66, 88 
Women, position of, 292 



Yuste, monastery of, 90 

Z 

Zwinglius, 236 



Butler & Tanner, The Selwood Printing Works, Frome, and London. 

329 Z 



BlNOiNGusi JUN151943 



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